Deputies Bust 10 Unlicensed Home Repair Contractors in Dunedin
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office netted 10 unlicensed contractors offering home repair services through Internet and newspaper ads during a two-day sting operation on Roanoke Street in Dunedin.
A two-day sting in Dunedin netted 10 unlicensed contractors offering home repair services via Internet and newspaper listings, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press conference in Largo on Friday.
Most of the trucks and cars had no business names on them. The one vehicle with a name on it, had a "fake" license number on it, Gualtieri said.
Pinellas County Sheriff's Office deputies combed through home-repair listings on Craiglist, Angie's List and The Seminole Beacon, and made 38 phone calls to several contractors offering a variety of roofing, plumbing, air-conditioning and electrical services. The advertisements did not contain the contractors' license numbers, Gualtieri said.
Eight unlicensed contractors showed up on Wednesday and Thursday to an undercover location on brick-lined Roanoke Street, which is in the heart of Dunedin's southside neighborhood. A short-lived neighborhood watch group on nearby Lyndhurst Street recently disbanded because of claims deputies were not taking their concerns seriously.
The contractors offered undercover officials services valued from $50 to $1,500, according to a news release. One individual wanted about $800 cash in advance for $1,500 of work, Gualtieri said.
The people arrested Wednesday and Thursday had permanent addresses in Palm Harbor, Clearwater, Largo, St. Petersburg, and Orlando.
Unlicensed contractors are "really preying on people in Pinellas...they are just flat our ripping-off people," Gualtieri said.
"The contractors are largely doing shoddy, not-to-code work. Citizens can protect themselves. We highly advise them to check license numbers. We will schedule more of these operations. We want people to know we are watching," Gualtieri said.
Pinellas County residents can check online and verify if a contractor is licensed. A licensed contractor will carry a card with a license number, which can be double-checked.
"We are going to be looking and verifying license numbers are accurate," Gualtieri said.
For first-time offenders, providing home repairs without a license, is a first-degree misdemeanor under the unlicensed contractor law. None of the 10 people arrested had prior convictions. Some of the individuals did have previous complaints filed against them, Gualtieri said
The Sheriff's Strategic Enforcement Section, The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, The Department of Financial Services Insurance Fraud Unit and the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board assisted.