DUNEDIN, Fla. (FOX 13) - The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office announced today that 39 unlicensed contractors were arrested over the weekend as a result of their latest undercover sting.
The suspects nabbed in 'Operation Punch List’ add to a growing list of unlicensed contractors busted over the past year.
“We have arrested, in these five operations, 152 people. A total of 331 charges," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
The grand total of unlicensed work added up to almost $700,000.
“That’s $700,000 worth of work that licensed contractors weren’t getting," Sheriff Gualtieri pointed out.
The sheriff said these crimes are way more serious than some may realize. He added that without worker's compensation insurance, those hiring the contractors could be on the hook if a worker gets hurt on the job.
“They’re not just trying to just make a living," said Gualtieri. “They're trying to rip people off and for many of these people, it’s a scam.”
FOX 13 spoke to one man arrested over the weekend. He is now facing felony charges for failing to have worker's compensation coverage.
“They’d have us give like a estimate. Then I got a mile down the road, got pulled over, and they never told me what I was getting arrested for. Then had me get out of the car, pushed me up against the side of the car, ‘cuffed me," said Justin Iovanni, who also faces a misdemeanor for failing to obtain a contracting license.
He stated it is all just a misunderstanding on his part.
“I’m registered with the state as an LLC," said Iovanni. "I never thought I needed workman’s comp because it’s just me.”
Other unlicensed contractors have been a little easier for the PCSO to spot.
“Jason Liggitt advertises himself on Craigslist as the ‘Topless Handyman,’" said Sheriff Gualtieri. "He did have a company that was registered with the state of Florida as ‘Shahs Secret Sauce Company.’”
The sheriff said a lot of the arrests are repeat offenders, and it's time to get serious about ending the problem.
“If these people aren’t getting the message and this continues the way it is, then perhaps we’re going to have to ask the legislature to look at this and make some felonies out of this so we can start shutting this down," Gualtieri continued. "There is consumer harm. These people are hurting people.”
Gualtieri stated that his office will continue with the undercover stings with the hope that fewer criminals are on the street, robbing others of their hard-earned money.
He advised those looking to hire contractors to do their due diligence and ask contractors for their license number. He also added that if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.