Pinellas Co., FL-- "It is very important that people use licensed contractors for work in their homes," stressed Sheriff Bob Gualtieri Friday after an undercover operation netted 10 arrests of those practicing as unlicensed contractors.
According to reports, the operation took place out of a private Dunedin home, and targeted unlicensed contractors who advertised home repair services such as roofing, AC repair, plumbing and electrical work.
Officials say the workers advertised on Craig's List, Angie's List and the Seminole Beacon without posting a license number in their ads.
As a part of the operation, investigators made a total of 38 calls to those in the ads and scheduled appointments for work to be done on the Dunedin home. They were able to have 10 individuals from eight different ads show up for services.
Each of the advertised repairmen offered to take the job at hand, quoting rates ranging from $50 to nearly $1500, depending on the service.
Deputies say one individual offered to repair an air conditioner for $1567, and wanted $783 immediately.
All 10 of the individuals were issued notices, requiring them to appear for violation of the unlicensed contractor statute- a second degree misdemeanor.
Officials say the investigation also resulted in several other charges including:
- Nine Cease and Desist citations with no fine
- One $2,500 fine issued by the members of the Florida Deparment of Business and Professional Regulation
- Nine $500 fines issued by the members of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who announced the results of the operation, urged Pinellas County residents to protect themselves.
"Take the time to verify those licenses in order to avoid becoming a victim to those who would prey upon those needing home repair services."
"Florida law sets specific rules and guidelines for obtaining professional licensure, and the people who have met these requirements are held to professional standards," added the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Consumers can verify professional licenses online at www.myfloridalicense.com, and can also report any suspected unlicensed activity by emailing ULA@dbpr.state.fl.us or calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1-866-532-1440
Citizens in Pinellas County may also verify an individual's license through the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board website at www.pcclb.org.
A complete list of the contractors arrested is as follows:
- Michael David Morrison Jr., 31, of Clearwater
- Eric Michael Pusateri, 36, of Palm Harbor
- John Samuel Young, 59, of Largo
- Nicholas Achilles Vaseliades, 56, of St. Petersburg
- Lynnoid Damon Stewart, 42, of St. Petersburg
- Robert Bhola Deonarine, 35, of St. Petersburg
- Michael J. Perez, 42, of Orlando
- Juan J. Dones. 34, of Orlando
- Gamal Ibrahim Baker, 52, of Clearwater
- Randy Scott Carr, 47, of Largo