SARASOTA (FOX 13) - They're quick talkers, smooth business men, and they look like they know what they're doing. But more often than not, they behind a big mess.
Now the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office is cracking down and just arrested nine men for posing as licensed contractors.
"Doors that are hung incorrectly, windows that are put in wrong. Someone has remolded an entire kitchen without a permit," explained Jon Mast, telling FOX 13 horror stories from victims of fake contractors.
Mast is the CEO of the Manatee Sarasota Building Industry Association. He works to put an end to phony businesses while helping homeowners stuck with unacceptable work.
"They're usually devastated when they find out work has been done improperly. They have no recourse against these unlicensed people. There's no corporation to go after. It's difficult, but you try and help them through the process," said Mast.
Sarasota deputies, meanwhile, have taken nine of these imposters off the streets as part of the sheriff's office's Operation Free Lancer IV. It's these deputies' fourth operation - protecting homeowners from unsafe work and other crimes.
Combined - the arrested men have a total of 40 prior felony and misdemeanor charges.
"It's a crime prevention mechanism and nothing else. We really just want to make sure people are safe in their own homes and that some other crime doesn't happen to you and you get taken advantage of," said Captain John Walsh.
The best route to take in protecting yourself from similar criminals is to get a copy of a contractor's license and insurance up front. If you're still unsure, contact the local building department.
"We didn't hear anybody arguing with us about being arrested for it. They've probably gotten away with it several times before. They finally did get arrested," said Capt. Walsh.
Florida law sets specific rules and guidelines for obtaining professional contracting licensure, and the people who have met these requirements are held to professional standards. Consumers can verify licenses with the DBPR online at www.myfloridalicense.com, by calling 850-487-1395, or on the free DBPR Mobile app through iTunes or the Google Play Store.
To check a Sarasota County license, call the Customer Service and Permit Center at 941.861.6678 or 941.861.3029. To report someone you suspect is acting as an unlicensed contractor or performing work without a permit, call 941.861.5000. For more information visit https://www.scgov.net/DevelopmentServices/Pages/ContractorLicensing.aspx.