Sheriff 'drops the hammer' in unlicensed-contractor sting

- "Bada bing. That's right; bada bing," That was part of the conversation captured on surveillance video. But, it’s not a mob hit, it's a conversation between an undercover Pinellas County sheriff's detective and an alleged unlicensed contractor.

It was a signal for other deputies to swoop in for an arrest -- part of a weekend sting operation called "Drop the Hammer."   Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says more than two dozen were arrested in the sting, which was staged at a home in a Dunedin neighborhood. 

Advertisements were put out seeking help with home improvement. As alleged unlicensed contractors showed up and negotiated for unpermitted, unlicensed work, they were placed under arrest.

Gualtieri warned that consumers risk more than just shoddy or over-priced work when using unlicensed contractors. He says 26 year-old Anthony Gianunzio and his girlfriend conspired to steal more than $19,000 worth of jewelry from a local homeowner. Gualtieri says the girlfriend worked at a local home improvement store and referred Gianunzio, who is not a licensed contractor, to customers. 

Gianunzio is in jail. Deputies say they're still looking for the girlfriend. 

Gualtieri says Pinellas County has a serious problem with unlicensed contractors. He says he hopes the Legislature will revamp the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board to improve the situation. 

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