Hillsborough County
Chad Chronister, Sheriff
Tampa, FL
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    Release Number: 17-669

    • For Immediate Release:
    • Public Information Office of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
    • November 7, 2017
    • Contact Person:
    • Public Information Office : piocommandcenter@hcso.tampa.fl.us
    • 813-247-8060

    HCSO Construction Fraud Unit Targets Unlicensed Contractors

    Seventy-three criminal cases were filed for fraud and unlicensed contracting.
    • Tuesday
    • August 1, 2017
    • Time: 12:00 AM
    • Hillsborough County

    Arrested:


    Alvaro Rojas 
    DOB: 12/09/1988
    Contracting without a license during a state of emergency.



    Richard Hanke
    DOB: 08/14/0960
    Contracting without a license during a state of emergency



    Dennis Hollingsworth

    DOB: 01/04/1995
    Contracting without a license during a state of emergency.



    Gino Michaels
    DOB: 02/28/1990
    Contracting without a license during a state of emergency.



    Angelo Thomas
    DOB:11/10/1995
    Contracting without a license during a state of emergency.



    Heath McCarthy
    DOB: 03/11/1976
    Contracting without a license subsequent offense and Workman’s Compensation Fraud.




    Anna E. Johnson
    DOB: 8/05/1979
    Warrants: FTA Grand Theft, FTA Contracting without a License, FTA Petit Theft, Workman's Compensation Fraud, and others.
    Unlicensed contracting charges also direct filed in our case.



    Joseph Zink
    DOB: 7/05/1965
    Contracting without a license and violation of his parole (kidnapping).

    Video of Unlicensed Contractors:

    Details:

    Unlicensed contractors can be appealing to consumers as they can offer services at a lesser cost.  The unlicensed contractor is not regulated, their work and the materials used may be substandard, they provide no warranty, and the work is done without the required permits and inspections.  These scenarios can cause costly repairs, code violations, and other liabilities.

    In response to these issues, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Construction Fraud Unit was created to proactively investigate issues related to unlicensed contracting in violation of Florida Statute 489 and Hillsborough County Ordinance 15-14.  Between June 2017 and August 2017, unit detectives initiated "Operation Rebuild."  The purpose of this targeted operation was to identify unlicensed contractors by employing an extended cover investigation.  partnered with the State Attorney's Office, Department of FInancial Services, and the Hillsborough County Building Department, investigations were conducted throughout Hillsborough County.

    Case detectives gathered information from multiple open sources regularly used by homeowners to contact contractors and "handy man" services.  Theses sources included: Angie's List, Home Advisor, Facebook, Craig's List, and various citizen complaints.  Unit detectives located and contacted 310 potential unlicensed contractors.  These subjects were gathered form all of the listed sources.  Of the 310 subjects contacted, 114 returned calls for quotes and met with the detectives.  Of those subjects, 73 criminal cases were filed for fraud and unlicensed contracting.

    Unit detectives received written quotes from the 73 subjects totaling $1,946,882.40.  Historically, the quality of unlicensed workmanship would need to be repaired and is generally more expensive to repair than if the work was originally completed by a licensed contractor.  Therefore, the potential economic impact to Hillsborough County homeowners and legitimate contractors would be in excess of four million dollars.

    Unit detectives also initiated "Operation Swift Wind," which targeted unlicensed contractors conducting business during a state of emergency, which was declared on September 4, 2017, by Governor Scott in response to the threats posed by Hurricane Irma.  In an abbreviated operation lasting for three days in late October, unit detectives contacted ten potential unlicensed contractors, resulting in five arrests for felony charges.

    HCSO would like to thank the following agencies who assisted in this on-going investigation:
    1. Hillsborough County Building Department
    2. State Attorney's Office
    3. Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation
    4. Florida Department of Financial Services
    • HCSO Construction Fraud Unit created through a collaborative effort with the Hillsborough County Building Department in January 2013.
    • The unit consists of two detectives and investigates an average of one hundred cases a year.
    • Thus far, in 2017, the unit has investigated 136 cases.
    • Since its inception, the unit has conducted proactive sting operations such as this one. 
    Beware of:
    • Door-to-door sales or internet offers for home improvement which seem too good of a deal.
    • Contractors who ask for large sums of money up front, especially cash.
    • A contractor who asks you the homeowner to obtain your own building permit or that the work can be done without one.
    • A contractor who will not who you his contractor's license and insurance documents upon demand.




     


     
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    Sheriff Chad Chronister
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