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Operation Retrofit Nets Multiple Arrests with More Charges Pending:
The Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister will not stand for scam artists targeting our elderly population and Operation Retrofit, headed up by the HCSO Construction Fraud Unit, is proof of just that.
Through intense investigative work, undercover detectives used a residential home on loan to HCSO in Sun City Center to catch unlicensed contractors preying on the roughly 25,000 senior citizens in the area. During the nine day sting, detectives responded to advertisements from known or suspected unlicensed contractors and posed as the homeowner to seek estimates on a variety of projects. Time after time, unlicensed contractors broke the law and provided quotes without proper licensing.
“One of these suspects traveled to our area specifically to target the elderly of Hillsborough County. It’s despicable and we won’t tolerate it. Shoddy work puts people’s safety at risk. The consequences of poor construction or electrical work could be deadly,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said.
Operation Retrofit netted 16 arrests, with charges pending for 6 additional individuals. Bogus estimates totaling $117,312.25 were provided to HCSO undercover detectives. “Everyone likes to save money, but you can’t be fooled by these scam artists. The savings aren’t worth the risk. Protect yourself, your family and your home by always hiring a licensed contractor,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said.
It’s important to visit the following two websites to research licensed contractors in Florida prior to hiring them:
Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation
Hillsborough County Contractor Licensing - https://webapps.hillsboroughcounty.org/pgm/resources/onlineservices/contractors/
Four (4) arrests of particular interest:
James Edwards Hanko, DOB 9/10/65 – He was arrested for unlicensed contracting after he offered to remodel a bathroom, paint and tile the residence in exchange for approximately $2,200. During the course of our investigation, he admitted he’d been a fugitive for the past 7 years. Hanko has active warrants out of Wisconsin for a parole violation, larceny theft from a business, 4th
degree sexual assault and lewd and lascivious behavior.
Reynaldo Garcia, DOB 11/17/54 – During Operation Retrofit, Garcia offered to paint the home for approximately $1,600. He was arrested for unlicensed contracting at which time he was found to be in possession of marijuana. He is a repeat offender and facing unlicensed contracting charges in a 2017 open case.
Darin Butts, DOB 6/27/61 – Not only was Butts arrested for unlicensed contracting after offering to replace a water heater and move electrical outlets for $270, he’s also a registered sex offender. He frequents the Sun City Center area and advertises as a handyman on his vehicle.
Donald Edward Tucker, DOB 3/30/63 – Tucker is a repeat offender and has previously been investigated by the HCSO Construction Fraud Unit. His license is listed as null and void by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation with an expiration date of August 31, 2010. During Operation Retrofit, Tucker contracted to remodel a bathroom, move electrical switches, tile the home and paint the interior in exchange for $11,050. Tucker was arrested and charged with unlicensed contracting, which is a felony as a second offense.
The Hillsborough County Construction Fraud Unit has conducted 6 stings since its inception in 2013. The unit has investigated more than $2.5 million in bogus estimates from unlicensed contractors, ultimately saving victims from the hefty financial toll.
As part of HCSO’s commitment to education and awareness on this particular topic, Sheriff Chad Chronister and the Construction Fraud Unit hold yearly seminars educating senior citizens and all residents about the dangers of working with an unlicensed contractor and how to recognize the warning signs. The next seminar is scheduled for spring of 2019 and more details will be released at that time.
Piotr Bis, DOB: 7/30/76 Kenneth Boisvert, DOB: 6/16/60 Humberto Calero, DOB: 6/01/62
Francisco Chavez, DOB: 9/03/87 William Kouts, DOB: 3/04/56 Justin Miller, DOB: 6/08/87
Darrin Butts, DOB: 6/27/61 Reynaldo Garcia, DOB: 11/17/54 James Edward Hanko, DOB: 9/10/65
Donald Tucker, DOB: 3/30/63 Marcos Murillo, DOB: 9/12/50 Steven Paul, DOB: 4/05/80
David Palacios, DOB: 6/23/88 Eduardo Rivera, DOB: 11/02/69 Ricardo Ruiz, DOB: 1/08/86
Robert Sanders, DOB: 5/31/81
- Door-to-door sales or internet offers for home improvement which seem to offer unrealistic savings
- Contractors who ask for large amounts of money up front, especially cash
- Contractors who ask the homeowner to obtain their own permits
- Contractors who claim work can be done without permits
- Contractors who will not show you their contractor’s license and insurance documents