70 Arrested in FL for Contractor Fraud
Officials of a Florida county say they’ve charged more than 70 people in an unlicensed contractor sting. Elevated by Hurricane Irma, the investigation also landed eight felony arrests.
WFLA and the Tampa Bay Times reported last week that Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced the results of a three-month criminal investigation that was part of the Homeland Security Division Construction Fraud Unit.
The operation ran from June to August and involved the Sheriff’s Office partnering with the State Attorney’s Office, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Florida Department of Financial Services and the Hillsborough County Building Department.
Reports say that detectives advertised a home in need of renovations and received hundreds of calls. Detectives then went undercover to follow-up meetings with more than 100 people.
The home had actually been deemed “beyond repair,” according to the Sheriff’’s Office, but those arrested submitted bids on the work anyway.
"This tells us that there are too many unlicensed contractors operating in Hillsborough County," Chronister said at the news conference Tuesday.
Reports say that over three days in October, officials contacted 10 potential unlicensed contractors and made five arrests on felony charges.
In Florida, the building code requires a person involved in work on a structure to first obtain a license for their scope of work. Typically, contracting without a license in Florida is a misdemeanor, but because those arrested were allegedly operating during a state of emergency, the charges are felonies.
In addition to the 73 people charged in the string, a total of six were arrested with felony charges of contracting without a license during a state of emergency, and two others were arrested with different felony charges—one faces grand theft, contracting without a license and workers’ compensation fraud, the other faces an unrelated violation of parole on a kidnapping charge.