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20 Unlicensed Contractors Arrested in Tampa Area Sting

40 felony charges filed

February 19, 2018

The Tampa Bay Times reports a sting operation conducted this past weekend by Pinellas County Sheriff's department netted more than 20 unlicensed contractors who had offered to do repair work for Tampa area building owners.

Florida requires contractors to be licensed and carry insurance, but the unlicensed and uninsured contractors routinely scam customers by offering services at a lower cost, assuming they even bother to come back to do the work after receiving initial payment.

In an effort to stop the unethical contractors, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri formed the Construction Licensing Investigative Unit last August and completed more than 500 investigations.

In October, sheriff deputies conducted Operation Nailed and arrested 20 unlicensed contractors. In Pinellas County, operating without a license is a misdemeanor for the first offence, and a felony for the second offences. Nineteen of the Operation Nailed violators are also charged with felonies for workers' comp fraud.

At issue is the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board's failure to deter dishonest contractors, a situation brought forward by the Times. Currently, the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board has no police power and can issue only civil citation if an unlicensed contractor is reported. The agency lacks any authority to force contractors who have received civil citations to pay more than $2 million in un paid fines.

The Pinellas board is the only one in the state. All other licensing and enforcement in Florida is handled by county authorities.

In response to the Time's investigative reporting, a proposal in the Florida legislature in moving to turn the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board over to the County Commission on July 1.

The Tampa Bay Times also uncovered a number of other problems with the board, including charges of misconduct by now-retired board executive director, Rodney Fischer.

Gualtieri plans to announce more details later regarding this weekend's arrests.

image: Pinellas County Sheriff's Office

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