Note: A limited amount of video recorded inside the house during the VCSO operation is available for download here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bxh0hPdRKCtbSWFEUFVzenN4Ums Additional video from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office will be available in the FCSO’s news release
Update: 8:30 p.m.
Volusia County sheriff's detectives arrested three more unlicensed contractors following today's news conference. An additional defendant was charged with possession of Alprazolam, and a fifth person was issued a notice to appear for possession of marijuana. This brings the total number of individuals in VCSO's operation to 10, including three ancillary arrests. The information is below.
VOLUSIA, FLAGLER SHERIFF’S OFFICES, STATE AGENCIES TARGET UNLICENSED CONTRACTORS
For Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly, it was a suspicious phone call to his home from a shady contractor shortly after he took office that set an undercover sting operation into motion. For Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, it was hearing from law-abiding builders and contractors frustrated with the crooked practices of unlicensed electricians, plumbers and air-conditioning repair technicians.
This week, in both counties, several of those unlicensed contractors were arrested during VCSO and FCSO sting operations in cooperation with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud and the State Attorney’s Office.
Both operations secured houses where an undercover detective posing as the homeowner placed calls to businesses advertising services that require the contractor to be licensed and insured. Through coordination with the state DBPR, detectives already knew all the targets were unlicensed. The operation in Volusia County, “Operation CON-tractor,” took place at a house in Deltona, while Flagler County’s “Operation Wrong Number” took place in Palm Coast.
One of those contractors, David Smith of Space Drain Cleaning, Repair and Maintenance, agreed to replace some leaky pipes under a kitchen sink. When the undercover detective asked if he could also replace a water heater, Smith replied, “I’m not supposed to, but I can put it in, but don’t say I did. I don’t have a license.” He later provided a written estimate and scheduled the work.
“They're parasites – I can't think of a better way to describe them,” Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood said Friday afternoon while his agency’s operation continued. “The message should get out there that if you're doing this activity, there’s a chance that you're going to be in handcuffs, there's a chance you’re going to have to hire an attorney, and there’s a chance you're going to wind up on the news tonight.”
“There is a reason that contractor licenses are required when performing these types of services,” Flagler Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Not only does it ensure that the work is meeting safety standards required by building codes, but it protects the homeowner from shady service or the possibility of getting ripped off. Homeowners need to be aware of the risk they take when they hire someone who is not licensed.”
“We were proud to play an active role in this week’s sting in Volusia and Flagler counties, and we will continue our efforts to protect Florida’s consumers and licensed professionals,” said Interim DBPR Secretary Matilde Miller. “Unlicensed contractors lack the training, qualifications and insurance to complete a job properly, and they often leave consumers paying more to repair substandard work. At DBPR, we’re committed to bringing these unlicensed individuals into compliance with the law to help protect this state and its consumers.”
“Individuals who operate as contractors while unlicensed pose a multi-prong threat to Floridians,” added Florida CFO Jeff Atwater. “Not only are they performing work that they have not been properly trained to complete, they are likely operating without adequate workers’ compensation coverage, leaving both workers and homeowners at risk of exorbitant costs in the event of an on-the-job injury. A combination of investigative forces across state and local agencies play a huge role in protecting Florida’s honest, hard-working contractors, and I’m pleased to see another successful multi-agency effort to hold bad actors accountable.”
The Volusia Building Industry Association and Deltona City Commissioner Anita Bradford also were instrumental in conceiving and carrying out the operation. The Flagler Home Builders Association and the City of Palm Coast assisted in the success of the operation in Flagler County.
The arrests included:
Given a Notice to Appear:
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151