A two-day sting netted 10 unlicensed contractors offering home repair services via Internet and newspaper listings including two Clearwater men, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a press conference Friday.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, deputies combed through home-repair listings on Craig's List, Angie's List and the Seminole Beacon. Investigators made 38 phone calls to several contractors offering a variety of roofing, plumbing, air-conditioning and electrical services. The advertisements did not contain the contractors' license numbers, Gualtieri said.
Eight unlicensed contractors showed up on Wednesday and Thursday to an undercover location on brick-lined Roanoke Street in Dunedin. The operation was conducted from Dec. 10-13. The vendors offered services valued from $50 to $1,567. One individual wanted $783 cash in advance for $1,567 of work, Gualtieri said.
Most of the trucks and cars had no business names on them. The one vehicle with a name on it, had a "fake" license number on it, Gualtieri said.
Unlicensed contractors are "really preying on people in Pinellas... they are just flat out ripping-off people," Gualtieri said.
"The contractors are largely doing shoddy, not-to-code work. Citizens can protect themselves. We highly advise them to check license numbers. We will schedule more of these operations. We want people to know we are watching," Gualtieri said.
Pinellas County residents can check online and verify if a contractor is licensed. A licensed contractor will carry a card with a license number, which can be double-checked.
"We are going to be looking and verifying license numbers are accurate," Gualtieri said.
For first-time offenders, providing home repairs without a license, is a misdemeanor under the unlicensed contractor law. None of the 10 people arrested had prior convictions. Some of the individuals did have previous complaints filed against them, Gualtieri said.
Nicholas Achilles Vaseliades, 56, Lynnoid Damon Stewart, 42, and Robert Bhola Deonarine, 35, of St. Petersburg were arrested as well as other contractors from Largo, Palm Harbor, Clearwater and Orlando.
The Sheriff's Strategic Enforcement Section, The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, The Department of Financial Services Insurance Fraud Unit and the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board helped with the undercover investigation.
Here is a complete list of contractors arrested and charged in the sting:
- Nicholas Achilles Vaseliades, 56, of St. Petersburg
- Lynnoid Damon Stewart, 42, of St. Petersburg
- Robert Bhola Deonarine, 35, of St. Petersburg
- Michael David Morrison, 31, of Clearwater
- Gamal Ibrahim Baker, 52, of Clearwater
- Eric Michael Pusateri, 36, of Palm Harbor
- John Samuel Young, 59, of Largo
- Randy Scott Carr, 48, of Largo
- Michael J. Perez, 42, of Orlando