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VCSO STING TARGETS UNLICENSED CONTRACTORS IN 2-DAY ‘OPERATION HURRI-CON’
With people across Volusia County still recovering and seeking repairs to properties damaged by Hurricane Irma, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office launched its second recent sting operation targeting unlicensed contractors looking to cash in on the work.
Volusia County sheriff’s detectives in cooperation with the State Attorney’s Office, Daytona Beach Police Department, and state insurance and fraud regulators, conducted a two-day undercover operation, which culminated today (Friday), zeroing in on unlicensed contractors in Deltona and Daytona Beach. The sting, dubbed “Operation Hurri-Con,” was designed to catch those who prey on victims of hurricane damage by advertising or offering services such as A/C, electrical or roofing jobs – all work that requires licensed contractors.
Investigators developed a list of unlicensed contractors on both sides of Volusia County, and set up meeting places in Daytona Beach (Thursday) and Deltona (Friday). In several cases, the contractors had advertised on Craigslist. Earlier this week, detectives called the suspect contractors at their business and requested an appointment for the contractor to visit an address to provide an estimate for roof repair. In each case, representations from the state Department of Business Professional Regulation (DBPR) confirmed that the contractor was unlicensed.
Once the unlicensed contractor provided an estimate for the job and left the business, deputies made traffic stops and arrested the contractor, transporting them to the Volusia County Branch Jail. Each was charged with engaging in contracting business without certification (Florida Statute 489.127) , and failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance coverage (F.S. 440.105 (4)(A)3).
The crimes were committed during the state of emergency declared by Gov. Rick Scott, making the charge of operating without a license a felony, deputies say. Detectives determined that each suspect “knowingly and unlawfully engaged in the business or acted in the capacity of a contractor . . . without being duly registered or certified,” the affidavits state.
“We want the message to be clear: If you’re in this business to help people, great. If you’re here because of greed, be assured, we will do this again and you will be found,” said Lt. Brian Henderson of the VCSO’s Major Crimes Unit. “With some people, it’s very evident they are trying to capitalize on (damage from) the hurricane.”
Added Sheriff Mike Chitwood: “We’ve run this operation before, and we’ll do it again – the point is, if you want to do the kind of work that requires a permit, go through the process and do it legitimately. We’re not going to sit here and leave our residents vulnerable to scam artists and thieves out there looking to make an easy profit.”
Henderson advised homeowners seeking reputable, licensed contractors to go to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s web site: www.myfloridalicense.com. In addition, anyone who hires an unlicensed contractor is civilly liable if that contractor gets injured while working on your home, Henderson said.
Those arrested Thursday, Sept. 28, and Friday, Sept. 29 were:
If found guilty, the defendants face up to five years in prison.
“Volusia was one of the many counties directly affected by Hurricane Irma. The results of this sting are proof that unlicensed contractors are in the area attempting to do work that they are unlicensed and unqualified to do,” said DBPR Secretary Jonathan Zachem. “It’s imperative that property owners always verify a contractor’s license before signing a contract. If you suspect unlicensed activity is taking place in your area, please report it directly to DBPR by calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1.866.532.1440 or by emailing ULA@myfloridalicense.com.”
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