“Widespread” Florida problem
Authorities in the Tampa Bay area have finished another big police sting, arresting 118 unlicensed contractors who offered to perform $540,000 worth of home repairs. Some of them were second offenders – making it a felony – while others had past criminal records and were arrested as well for parole and drug possession offenses. You never know who you’re going to meet when you let an unlicensed contractor inside your home.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said Operation House Hunters began last spring following increased complaints of contractor fraud. Undercover agents posing as homeowners set up 191 appointments for home repair work from March through December of last year. They met with unlicensed contractors who were advertising on Craigslist and other social media. Among those arrested was Steven Velletri, who in the police-provided sting video below, offers “a fair exchange of money for fair services,” in this case, offering to pressure wash, stucco, and paint the home’s exterior for $4,200.
Police say Velletri, a registered sex offender for a past third-degree rape case, was also charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Of the 118 men and women arrested, 8 were repeat offenders for unlicensed contracting, making it a felony offense. At least one of them had a state contractor license in the past but it was revoked several years back for abandoning a project and failing to fulfil subsequent disciplinary requirements.
The bust received good coverage by the print and broadcast media, allowing Sheriff Chronister to talk about “a widespread Florida problem” of shoddy work and outright fraud that can come with hiring unlicensed workers.
“This is a prime example of why it is so important to know the background of the people you hire, and always choose reputable and licensed companies,” he said. “Take the time to ask for credentials, licenses and proof of insurance. Talk with other customers and references, and never be afraid to ask questions before letting someone into your home.”
You can verify licensing through the state’s www.myfloridalicense.com portal.
LMA Newsletter of 2-10-20