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UNLICENSED ACTIVITY IN THE NEWS

 

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October 2017

 

Pinellas deputies go door-to-door at dawn to arrest unlicensed contractors

10/17/2017 http://www.tampabay.com

For years, licensed contractors in Pinellas County have yearned for law enforcement to target unlicensed roofers, painters and others in the construction trades who perform shoddy work and swindle money from homeowners.

Deputies fulfilled that wish on Tuesday.

At 5 a.m., they began pounding on doors in a roundup of contractors accused of working without licenses and workers' compensation insurance.

 

State waives licensing requirements for roof repairs; what to know

10/13/2017 http://www.naplesherald.com

With the wide swath of Hurricane Irma bringing damaging winds and rain to most of Florida, roofers are in high demand. In order to speed up repairs, the state has waived the requirement for roofing licenses when applying for a permit. That means more workers to fix damaged homes, but it also means homeowners may be dealing with general contractors who don’t have a lot of experience in roofing.

Charles Dampier, owner of Frank’s Roofing & Spraying, Inc., has been working on roofs for over 25 years. Dampier said that while it is good that there are now more people to meet the demand for roof repair after Irma, homeowners can take some steps to make sure that their contractor has the experience to properly complete the project.

“They have opened it up for GCs to do roofing, which is not a terrible thing, but I think one of the issues is that they are not roofing contractors so they aren’t geared to do roofing,” said Dampier. ”They are just going to hire whoever they are going to hire to get it done.”

 

Collier County cracking down on unlicensed contractors

10/06/2017 http://www.nbc-2.com

EAST NAPLES, Fla. – Collier County is aggressively cracking down on bogus contractors, with more than a dozen citations issued so far.

One man was even cited for the same thing after Superstorm Sandy.

Contractors are going door to door, offering help to people like Pat and Bill Hanson in East Naples. But these contractors aren't always qualified to do the work.

 

Residents warned about storm removal scams

10/02/2017 http://www.heraldtribune.com

Sarasota residents have been advised in a news release to be alert and cautious when hiring contractors following Hurricane Irma.

“Over the weekend, we received word that flyers are being placed on storm debris piles in neighborhoods advertising removal at ‘reasonable rates,’” said Public Works Director Doug Jeffcoat. “The city of Sarasota is providing the storm debris removal service at no additional cost. Residents do not have to pay a private contractor for storm debris removal.”

Before hiring a contractor for any work, residents are advised to ask for the business license number and verify it with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation or Sarasota County (941-861-5214 orlicensing@scgov.net);obtain three estimates (to compare price and scope of work) and check the company’s reliability through the Better Business Bureau. Residents also should be aware of solicitors going door-to-door in an unmarked vehicle, offering an unusually low fee, refusing to provide a written estimate, requiring payment before work starts, requiring the resident to secure permits and asking for a signed work authorization prior to hiring the company.

 

September 2017

 

Multi-agency sting operation snares unlicensed contractors after Hurricane Irma

09/29/2017 http://www.news-journalonline.com

Volusia County sheriff’s investigators working with other agencies arrested nine men suspected of trying to collect money for illegal contracting work.

Authorities said during a Friday announcement they have been on the lookout for unlicensed contractors who are preying upon those who had their property damaged from Hurricane Irma, which ripped through the area Sept. 10-11.

Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Henderson said the suspects are committing “crimes of opportunity” and are motivated by greed and attracted to those who are most vulnerable.

 

IRMA: Unlicensed contractors arrested in Volusia County

09/29/2017 http://www.mynews13.com

VOLUSIA COUNTY --Several men are facing charges after deputies said the suspects were trying to scam people with home damage from Hurricane Irma.

Investigators said the suspects, who are not licensed contractors, were caught trying to get money for repair work they likely weren’t going to do.

Since Thursday, deputies have arrested eight men who they said are not licensed contractors.


Florida officials: Don't fall for insurance and repair fraud

09/28/2017 http://www.wtxl.com

FLORIDA (WTXL) -Anti-fraud investigators are being deployed across Florida in an effort to minimize the amount of insurance and repair fraud taking place following Hurricane Irma.

Ranging from overbilling insurance companies to being unlicensed contractors, scam artists often attempt to take advantage of consumers following a disaster. Many times an insurance policyholder does not understand the paperwork they are signing when repairs begin. In an attempt to spot and stop the fraud, Florida's Department of Financial Services is sending several employees to areas most impacted by Irma, including Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys along with Lee and Collier counties in southwest Florida.

 

Irma brings winds, floods and scammers

09/25/2017 http://www.heraldtribune.com

Hurricane Irma has blown through Florida, and the scam artists are showing up.

From unlicensed contractors to investment schemes, disasters like Irma can be a magnet for crooks looking for a quick buck, experts say.
TheFlorida Office of Insurance Regulation has already warned about scams tied to repairing damaged homes and receiving insurance payments.

 

How do I know my contractor is legit? Here’s how to check.

09/14/2017 http://www.miamiherald.com

As the harsh effects of Hurricane Irma in South Florida slowly die down, property owners are prepping for the long road ahead of repairing their homes.

As eager as one could be to pick a contractor — any contractor — to get the job done, a five-minute background check can go a long way to avoid future problems.

Here are some tips on how to better research your handyman (or woman) on the fly.

 

Avoid post-storm scams, hire a licensed contractor

09/13/2017 www.villages-news.com

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Lake County’s Building Services Division is warning residents against hiring unlicensed contractors.

“Both homes and businesses assessing the damage caused by Irma will likely be seeking a construction contractor in the coming days and weeks,” said Robert Chandler, Economic Growth Director. “Many storm-related services require state licensing, and it is important citizens do their due diligence in hiring a licensed professional.”

 

Beware of unlicensed contractors when making repairs

09/12/2017 - http://www.tbo.com

As Tampa Bay residents start to repair homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, officials have a message for homeowners: Don't allow unlicensed contractors to scam you.

The thousands of homes with missing shingles, holes in roofs and broken windows provide opportunities for unlicensed contractors and criminals to land on your doorstep with lofty promises. They will pose as window installers, tree cutters, roofers and offer the essential services that a disaster-struck area might need.

But they all have a deal you can't pass up.
July 2017

 

9 arrested during 3-day undercover operation to find unlicensed contractors

07/18/2017 http://www.mysuncoast.com/

SARASOTA CO., FL – The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office works to protect citizens from unlicensed contractors and arrested nine people during a three-day operation.

During Operation Freelancer IV, detectives partnered with the Sarasota County Building Department, the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to contact individuals advertising home repair services that require a license to complete. 11 felony charges and seven misdemeanor charges were filed as a result. Those arrested have a total of 40 prior felony and misdemeanor charges as well as eight convictions.

 

9 arrested in Sarasota Co. unlicensed contractor sting

07/18/2017 http://wfla.com/

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla - The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office busted nine unlicensed contractors in an undercover sting called “Operation Freelancer IV.”

Detectives worked with the Sarasota County Building Department, the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to contact individuals advertising home repair services that require a license to complete. As they arrived for the supposed work, the DBPR database was checked to determine if they were licensed and registered as a contractor. Detectives also researched whether they had the required workers’ compensation coverage.

 

Nine arrested in unlicensed contractor sting

07/18/2017 http://www.heraldtribune.com/

SARASOTA COUNTY – Nine unlicensed contractors were arrested last week in a sting operation designed specifically to protect consumers, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says.

Operation Freelancer IV is an investigation by the police department into individuals who “advertise home repair services that require a license to complete,” the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said. The three-day sting operation resulted in 11 felony and seven misdemeanor charges. Working closely with the Sarasota County Building Department, the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, detectives contacted contractors to complete an assignment that legally required a license.

 

9 arrested in undercover operation targeting unlicensed contractors

07/18/2017 http://www.bradenton.com/

SARASOTA -- An undercover operation led by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in an effort to identify unlicensed contractors has resulted in nine arrests.

During Operation Freelancer, sheriff’s office detectives worked with the Sarasota County Building Department, the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to contact people who were advertising home repair services that require a license to complete, according to a news release.

During the three-day long operation, the suspects were called out to a home and the DBPR’s database was used to confirm whether each person was licensed, registered as a contractor, and/or had required workers’ compensation coverage or exemption to do the work requested.

 

Operation Freelancer IV Nabs Unlicensed Contractors

07/17/2017 - http://www.sarasotasheriff.org/

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office arrested nine people on multiple charges during Operation Freelancer IV, an investigation to protect citizens from unlicensed contractors.

Detectives worked with the Sarasota County Building Department, the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud, and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to contact individuals advertising home repair services that require a license to complete. As individuals arrived at the predetermined residence last week, the DBPR database was checked to determine if they were licensed, registered as a contractor and/or required workers' compensation coverage or exemptions to perform the work they proposed to do.

 

Getting Results: Unlicensed plumber arrested

07/14/2017 https://www.clickorlando.com

PALM BAY, Fla. - A New Jersey man with a lengthy criminal record was arrested for defrauding a Palm Bay couple by illegally posing as a plumber, court records show.

Robert Hibbert, 55, never obtained a Florida plumbing contractor license after moving to Central Florida last year, state officials indicated.

Police have recommended 10 felony charges against Hibbert, including home invasion using a false persona. Authorities claim Hibbert fraudulently posted the license number of a legitimate plumber in his advertisements.

June 2017

 

News 6 exposes unlicensed plumber

06/29/2017 - http://www.clickorlando.com/

PALM BAY, Fla.- When water from an underground pipe began seeping up through the concrete floor and soaking the carpet in Frank and Debra Morris's house, the couple turned to the home improvement website HomeAdvisor to find a plumber.

A listing for Sage Plumbing, based in Vero Beach, stated the company was a certified plumbing contractor and displayed a Florida license number.

"My dad would always ask contractors for their license," said Debra Morris, who said she felt comfortable hiring the plumber based on the HomeAdvisor website's assurance that the company had been "screened and approved".

 

Unlicensed contractor sting nets six in Columbia County

06/23/2017 - http://www.firstcoastnews.com/

On Thursday, June 22, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Detectives arrested six subjects during an undercover sting targeting unlicensed contractors.

CCSO worked jointly with personnel from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (FDBPR) during the one day sting to highlight the need for the public to use due care when hiring contractors.

“Informed consumers are our greatest weapon against unlicensed contractors,” said Interim Secretary Matilde Miller of the FDBPR. “We hope this story inspires Florida consumers to educate themselves on the risk they assume when hiring an unlicensed professional.”

 

Unlicensed contractors busted in undercover sting in Flagler, Volusia counties, investigators say

06/16/2017 - http://www.wftv.com/

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - Twelve people were arrested in Volusia and Flagler counties recently after an undercover sting aimed at rooting out unlicensed contractors preying on residents, officials said.

Law enforcement in Flagler County got involved in the issue after Sheriff Rick Staly received a suspicious phone call to his home from a “shady” contractor, a joint statement from the Volusia County and Flagler County sheriff’s offices. Volusia County joined efforts to get unlicensed contractors off the streets after Sheriff Mike Chitwood heard from numerous citizens about the individuals.

 

Five arrested in Flagler County after undercover operation to catch unlicensed contractors

06/16/2017 - http://www.palmcoastobserver.com/

Shortly after Rick Staly was sworn in as Flagler County sheriff, his wife received a call at their home from a company asking if they needed any roof repairs from Hurricane Matthew damages. When the sheriff’s wife asked if the company was licensed and insured, the phone disconnected.

Staly then directed the Investigative Services Division to conduct Operation Wrong Number to identify and arrest people contracting without a license.

 

Unlicensed contractors? Not on my watch, Flagler County sheriff says

06/16/2017 - http://www.news4jax.com/

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. - When Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly’s wife answered a phone call shortly after Hurricane Matthew, and the voice on the line asked if the couple needed any roof repairs, she asked if the company were licensed and insured.

The caller didn’t answer the question and the phone line disconnected. This happened soon after Sheriff Staly was sworn in, and he took swift action, directing the Investigative Services Division to conduct an operation to identify and arrest people contracting without a license, the Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

 

May 2017

 

Sting targets unlicensed, uninsured contractors in Zephyrhills

05/25/2017 - http://www.tampabay.com/

ZEPHYRHILLS — A two-day undercover sting targeting unlicensed and uninsured contractors by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office led to three arrests and one pending arrest.

The operation took place May 10 and 11, with detectives posing as homeowners at a single-family residence in Zephyrhills, the Sheriff's Office said.
Before the operation, detectives scheduled appointments with 16 contractors through sites such as Facebook, Craigslist, Angie's List, Thumbtack and Home Advisor, all of them unlicensed, a Sheriff's Office news release said. All 16 advertised themselves as "handymen" who could complete remodeling services or perform other services requiring a contractor's license and workers' compensation insurance coverage.

 

Unlicensed contractor scams dozens, gets arrested

05/19/2017 - http://www.fox4now.com/

CAPE CORAL, Fla. -- A Cape Coral contractor is behind bars after he was accused of scamming several homeowners and subcontractors.

Shane Lack, 44, was arrested on grand theft charges, after allegedly scamming several people on contracting jobs. Fox 4 reached out to some of his clients, who said he did not complete their work, or they paid a large deposit and never heard from him again.

 

March 2017

 

Jacksonville man charged with unlicensed contracting, fraud, grand theft

03/29/2017 - http://www.news4jax.com/

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- A Jacksonville man is accused of entering into construction contracts with customers and taking their money without doing jobs he agreed to do, or refunding them.

Darren Lee was arrested Monday on one count of organized fraud, four counts of grand theft and four counts of unlicensed contracting, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Police said complaints about Lee, 50, started pouring in between September and November.

 

 

Action 9 investigates unlicensed contractor blamed for creating fire hazard

03/27/2017 http://www.wftv.com/

ORLANDO,Fla.- An Orlando woman claims a contractor hired to repair an electrical problem instead created a fire hazard.

The contractor fixed a controversial power panel that most experts say has to be replaced. Action 9's Todd Ulrich could not find a state contractor's license and said these kinds of contractors can be very risky.

Sharron King needed an electrician, and hired T & T Electrical from Craigslist. But after owner Tim Martin finished repairs, King said her

house could have burned down.

 

 

BBB: Don't let your guard down at home shows

03/03/2017 http://www.news4jax.com/

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- There's a consumer alert for people heading to the Jacksonville Home and Patio Show this weekend.

Though local home shows are a great opportunity to shop and gather ideas for home improvement, it is important to attend the show with a plan in mind, the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida advised.

“Your home is likely your most valuable asset, so educating yourself about the process of hiring a contractor is an important step before you begin any home improvement project,” says Tom Stephens, president of BBB serving Northeast Florida and the Southeast Atlantic. “After last year's home show, we saw a situation where an unlicensed contractor devastated numerous families. BBB wants to make sure you hire someone you can trust.”

 

 

February 2017

 

How to find certified home inspectors and contractors

02/27/2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com

We recently had a question from a homeowner in Florida who had trouble finding an inspector or contractor who could help her figure out whether there had been any structural damage to a balcony that had been hit by a falling tree.

We want to address the issue of why home inspectors or perhaps contractors have balked at giving this homeowner some help.

As soon as the homeowner asked whether the contractors were licensed, insured and certified, they “disappeared.”

 

Cracking Down on Unlicensed Contractors

02/21/2017 http://www.nbcmiami.com/

If you’re hiring someone to do work on your home, do you take the time to check if they are licensed? Miami-Dade County says you should, especially since they say unlicensed contractors are a big problem in our area.

The problem is so prevalent that a few times a year, they join forces with Miami-Dade Police, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and other agencies to do unlicensed contractor stings.

NBC 6 Responds positioned several hidden cameras inside a vacant home, to capture what police described as a steady stream of unlicensed contractors. Two undercover police officers posed as homeowners looking to remodel the house.

 

City provides new options to report unlicensed contractors

02/15/2017 http://www.lehighacrescitizen.com/

Cape Coral's Code Compliance Division is providing direct links to report unlicensed contractors and unpermitted construction work. The city department has established a dedicated phone number and email address that citizens can use to alert the city to suspected illegal contracting and construction activity. The phone number is 239-242-3783, and the email is unlicensed@capecoral.net.
"Work performed by unlicensed contractors does not have proper permits and is not inspected to ensure compliance with state building codes, which can affect the safety and welfare of the homeowner," said Code Manager Richard Carr. "Unfortunately, the homeowner is the one who is liable for the additional costs associated with bringing shoddy, unpermitted work up to code."
The city also works with the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association to provide information about the importance of hiring licensed contractors, and checking their references and credentials.

 

January 2017

 

Man posing as real estate agent arrested

01/23/2017 http://www.fox13news.com

Clearwater - Plenty of people use websites like Craigslist to buy or sell homes, but authorities warn not everyone out there is who they say they are.

On Friday, police in Michigan arrested Kervin Moreno, a man accused of posing as a real estate agent and broker in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

 

Officials warn of possible storm damage cleanup scams

01/24/2017 http://www.bradenton.com/

Now that the winds have died down and the rain has passed, officials don’t want residents to become prey for scammers who may claim to clean up the mess last weekend’s storms left behind.

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office released a statement Tuesday warning Florida residents of possible scams. After the damaging storms, individuals may try to prey on the affected, according to the release.

 

Six arrested for contracting without a license

01/30/2017 http://www.wjhg.com/

WALTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE (Press Release) -A three-day operation leads to the arrest of six individuals for contracting without a license.

Walton County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation conducted a joint operation focusing on unlicensed contractors Wednesday through Friday last week. This operation began with a DBPR employee making contact with various suspects who were advertising services online. Appointments were set up with the suspects who would give estimates for their work in exchange for money.

Suspects would meet with undercover investigators at an arranged location and conduct an estimate. Once it was determined the suspect was operating as a licensed contractor without a valid contracting license they were stopped by units of the Walton County Sheriff's Office and issued a notice to appear. Each individual was also issued a cease and desist order from DBPR. This operation resulted in six subjects being issued NTAs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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