Unlicensed contractors continue to take advantage of homeowners

Too many Bay Area homeowners become victims of unlicensed contractors.

They come through your door with a friendly smile and listen to the list of improvements you want to make to your home. They promise to get the job done and take your money. 

"That can end in a lot of bad ways. It ends with the projects not being done correctly, no permits being pulled. It’s shoddy craftsmanship basically," said Sarasota County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Lt. Adam Kaskey. 

Kaskey told FOX 13 about an undercover operation in which six unlicensed contractors were arrested. 

"They're trying to take advantage of people and trying to do not the right thing," he said. 

Tomas Brejza, 42, Kris Johnson, 67, Jeffrey Lexvold, 50, Miles Mitchell, 55, and Paige Pierce, 46, were arrested Tuesday in the operation.

The sheriff's office said each of them came into a home and offered their services while claiming to be a legitimate contractor. Some allegedly presented business cards and acted like they knew what they were doing. 

"Every year, year after year, we continue to get people that are doing this," said Lt. Kaskey. 

After seven years of performing the operation, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office continues to see unlicensed contractors offering their services. 

"They basically want to be able to come in, do the work, and move on and not have any real liability to come back on them and the business," said Lt. Kaskey. 

Tom Jackson with Jackson & Associates General Contractors said before you let anyone in your home, you need to ask a few simple questions. 

"Where is your license? Can I see a copy of your license? Do you have a certificate of insurance for liability?" said Jackson. 

Jackson said if you don't ask those questions, you could find yourself with an even bigger problem than when you started. 

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse. I think people know they are doing this incorrectly I think a lot of them know that they need to be licensed and permits," he said. 

The operation resulted in four felony charges and six misdemeanor charges.  

Florida law establishes rules and guidelines for obtaining professional licensure, and the people who have met these requirements are held to professional standards.

To verify a contractor's license in the state of Florida, visit www.myfloridalicense.com or call 850-487-1395. Licenses can be searched by name, license number, city, county, or license type.

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 in Sarasota County, call 941-861-5000. For more information visit https://www.scgov.net/government/planning-and-development-services/building

In Pinellas County, contact the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board at http://www.pcclb.com/ or 727-582-6767.

In Hillsborough County, visit https://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/businesses/permits-and-records/contractor-licensing, email licensing@gcflgov.net, or call 813-272-5600.

In Pasco County, visit https://www.pascocountyfl.net/2115/Unlicensed-Contracting-Investigations.

In Polk County, visit https://www.polk-county.net/building.

In Hernando County, visit https://www.hernandocountygis-fl.us/BldgDept/contractors.

In Manatee County, email ManateeBADSOnline@mymanatee.org ​or call the Building and Development Services Department at 941-749-3012.

In Highlands County, visit http://www.hcbcc.net/departments/development_services/building.php or contact the Building Department at 863-402-6643.