Pinellas County deputies arrest 11 unlicensed contractors, search for 9 more

Arrests made in unlicensed contractor operation
Posted at 7:44 AM, Oct 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-17 17:45:21-04

Pinellas County deputies have made 11 arrests and are looking for 9 more unlicensed contractors. Deputies filed 58 criminal charges in a collaborative effort to target unlicensed contractors.

Two months ago, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office began a pilot program to crack down on unlicensed contracting investigations. Prior to then, the Pinellas County construction Licensing board was tasked with investigating unlicensed contractors, but Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says the enforcement was not adequate. 



"There was very little enforcement. Some unlicensed contractors were fined. These fines were not a deterrent. Unlicensed contractors would often write off the fines as the cost of doing unlicensed business," Gualtieri explained. “This will no longer be the case. Unlicensed contractors are scamming innocent citizens and either doing shoddy work or not doing work at all after receiving advanced payment.”

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is currently heading up 220 investigations. A total of 20 people are being charged. The 58 charges range from grand theft, to unlicensed contracting and unemployment fraud. 

“The message is stop it. Knock it off. You’re going to go to jail," Gualtieri explained.

90-year-old Darlene Anderson was one of the victims. She paid a man named Richard Niger $26,125 for painting work, plaster repair and to recreen her pool enclosure. He was unlicensed and even convinced Anderson to write him an additional check claiming the one she wrote went through the washing machine and was ruined. “He came to the door. He had a nice truck. he had a business card. He even had a license number, but from my understanding that was an invalid number," Anderson explained.

She says she isn't a gullible person, “My husband died on March 31 and this was in June, it was kind of soon and I felt vulnerable.”

Anderson says at the time Richard Niger lived just down the street from her. "He claimed he was doing work for many of my neighbors too," she said.

The arrests span across Pinellas County and pertain to all kinds of work, not just following Hurricane Irma, although the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office urged citizens to report incidents of 
unlicensed contractor work and or solicitation to do repair work in the wake of the storm.

The people already arrested or in the process of being arrested are: Alex Belliveau, Brandon Nestell, Brandon Rana, Charles Leasure, Christopher Parsells, George McMillan, Jose Bentram, Kevin Harrison, Michael Hettrich, Michael Ledoux, Randolph Ronchi, Richard Niger, Rlan Wilkerson, Robert Pichman, Samuel Hopkins, Franklin Dotson, Curtis Skeens, Nicholas Pavone, Matthew Anderson and Christoper Ledoux. 

To report an unlicensed contractor, call the Construction License Investigative Unit 727-582-6767.