Unlicensed Contractors “Nailed” in Operation Freeloader
Beginning on August 12th, 2014, members of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit conducted an operation targeting Unlicensed Contractors operating in Lee County. During the three day operation, fourteen (14) people were arrested for unlicensed contracting. Including one from Lehigh Acres.
Additionally, many of the individuals failed to have required workers’ compensation insurance or a required exemption and were additionally charged with a violation of workers’ compensation laws.
This operation involved agents and officers from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit, Public Services Division, and South District, along with Florida Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), and the Lee County Department of Community Development, Contractor Licensing and Code Enforcement Divisions. The operation utilized a single family dwelling located in the San Carlos Park area.
During this operation, undercover agents contacted a number of individuals from various internet websites such as Porch.Com and Craigslist, where the individuals were advertising construction related services. Arriving at the location in San Carlos Park, these individuals met with undercover officers and willingly agreed to offer proposals to perform various construction type tasks at the target residence. The work proposed requires the service provider to be a properly licensed contractor, and the contractor must carry workers’ compensation coverage, or they must have filed a certificate of exemption.
The individuals were also issued civil citations (with mandatory court dates) from Lee County Code Enforcement for unlicensed contracting and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation issued notices to “Cease and Desist”.
Three additional individuals were issued Civil Citations from Code Enforcement along with notices to ”Cease and Desist” and were released at the scene.
As our Southwest Florida economy continues to improve so does the construction industry. Unfortunately, there are many unlicensed contractors who do not possess required licensing, often lacking in the training and experience necessary to perform “safe” work. In many cases, unlicensed contractors do not obtain the required permits in order to keep county officials from inspecting their work.
Consumers can verify professional licenses with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation online at www.myfloridalicense.com, by calling (850) 487-1395, or by downloading the free DBPR Mobile app through iTunes or the Google Play store. Citizens are asked to report any suspected unlicensed activity by calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1 (866) 532-1440, or by calling the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
This operation targeted violations of F.S.S. 489.127(1)(f) & F.S.S. 489.531(1)(a); Unlicensed Contractor, F.S.S. 440.105(4)(a)(3) & F.S.S. 440.10(1)(g); Workers’ Compensation Fraud, and Lee County Ordinance 00-26.
Sheriff Mike Scott and the men and women of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, combined with our partner agencies, will continue to “nail down” unlicensed contractors. “These people are renegades,” says Sheriff Mike Scott. “Whether they’re lowballing tree trimming jobs or just plain doing shoddy work, they give a bad name to all the licensed, legitimate contractors out there. We will continue to do operations like this to ’weed out the bad apples.’ “