Detectives bust 8 unlicensed contractors in sting

- In an undercover sting, Sarasota County Sheriff's Detectives arrested seven unlicensed contractors accused of agreeing to perform work without the proper license or permits.

 

Last week, detectives set up several hidden cameras in a sting house to capture contractors as they talk to actors posing as homeowners.

 

Detectives found 70 unlicensed contractors looking for work through postings on Craigslist, in newspapers and business cards. Thirty-five responded.

 

"They show up, they take some measurements, they give us a quote," Detective Dan Valentino said. "We say, 'oh, thank you very much, and by the way you're not licensed to contract in the state of Florida. You don't have workers compensation insurance, and you're under arrest.'"

 

During the sting, job quotes ranged from a couple hundred dollars to $50,000.

 

In all, "Operation Freelander II" resulted in eight felony arrests and 12 misdemeanor citations.

 

Valentino often asked unlicensed contractors, "Why don't you just get the license? You obviously know what you're doing. You've been in the building trade for years. It's like driving a car. I know you can do it, but the state says you have to have a license. Just get a license," He explained.

 

Their response is always, it costs money.

 

The sheriff's office suggests homeowners check the legitimacy of a contractor's license through myfloridalicense.com. Or in Sarasota, homeowners can make sure their contractor applied and received the proper permits by calling 861-6678 or 861-3029.

 

Homeowners ripped off by an unlicensed contractor can always report their frustration to the sheriff's office through CrimeStoppers.

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