MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. — In an undercover sting, Pinellas County Detectives arrested 35 unlicensed contractors working in Pinellas County.
Detectives assigned to the Economic Crimes Unit along with the Florida Department of Financial Services, and the State Attorney Sixth Judicial Court worked collaboratively to charge and arrest unlicensed contractors working in Pinellas County during an operation coined “Operation Cast Out”.
Investigators arrested 35 suspects with 65 criminal charges and referred one suspect to the State Attorney’s Office for two additional criminal charges. The charges include unlicensed specialty contracting violations, workers compensation fraud, and various other criminal charges unrelated to unlicensed contracting.
The undercover sting operation was conducted at a vacant storefront located at 200 150th Avenue, Madeira Beach, and began on Saturday, November 3, 2018, and ended on Monday, November 5, 2018.
Through this undercover sting operation, undercover detectives were solicited by unlicensed specialty contracting suspects who offered to perform illegal unlicensed contracting work at the storefront.
Detectives say these unlicensed contractors were found advertising on websites to include Facebook, Craigslist, Next Door, and various other social media platforms. The suspects came to the business and met with undercover detectives while offering to do a variety of work that included electrical, painting, drywall, and tile work.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says that all of the suspects agreed to engage in this illegal contracting work without a license and without pulling a permit.
"The results of this weekend’s operation reinforces the fact that unlicensed contracting is still an ongoing problem in Pinellas County," the sheriff's office said in a press release.
Sheriff Gualtieri said, “It’s really not hard, we’re setting up these undercover operations and we make the phone calls and they come. It really is too easy. When we start seeing the numbers go down and we start seeing people show up who are licensed, then we’ll know we are making a difference and we’ve made an impact in this.”
Citizens in Pinellas County can search for licensed contractors or report unlicensed construction activity by visiting the PCCLB website here. Citizens can also report violations of unlicensed contracting by contacting the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office at (727) 582-6200.