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17 arrested in Pinellas County unlicensed contractor sting

Posted at 6:09 PM, Oct 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-11 19:00:35-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — An unlicensed contracting sting resulted in the arrests of 17 people, detectives with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office announced on Friday.

Operation Lookout started on Wednesday and concluded on Friday. Economics Crime detectives say the 17 suspects face a total of 38 charges including licensed specialty contracting violations and workers compensation fraud, among others.

According to detectives, the suspects all agreed to do illegal contracting work without a license and without pulling a permit. The unlicensed contractors were found to be advertising on various social media platforms including Facebook, Craigslist and Next Door, according to authorities.

The suspects came to an empty home in Belleair Bluffs that detectives used for the undercover operation. There, they met with detectives and offered to do a variety of services including electrical, plumbing, concrete work, painting, drywall and tile.

"The results of this operation reinforces the fact that unlicensed contracting is still an ongoing problem in Pinellas County," the sheriff's office said in a press release.

Since the sheriff's office did its first undercover unlicensed contracting operation on Aug. 7, 2017 they say 188 suspects have been arrested with over 404 criminal charges. They say the total amount of money quoted by those suspects is more than $880,000.

"On July 1, 2018, a law was passed that eliminated the existing licensing board in Pinellas County and turned the responsibility over to Pinellas County Government. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate criminal violations and work with Pinellas County Government to help protect citizens being exploited by those engaged in unlicensed contracting," a press released said.

Pinellas County citizens can search for licensed contractors or report unlicensed construction activity here. You can also call the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office at 727-582-6200 to report violations.