Tampa, Florida (February 4, 2020) – According to a new report provided online by wtsp.com, detectives arranged a large, undercover sting operation to catch unlicensed contractors engaging in illegal, unlicensed home repair services in Hillsborough County, Florida. The detectives posed as homeowners who were in need of various home repair projects.
"Operation House Hunters" was an investigation that lasted approximately 9 months and targeted unlicensed contractors who were selling home repair services on websites and on social media websites throughout Hillsborough County, Florida.
On Tuesday, Sheriff Chad Chronister provided details about the operation and stated in a news conference that 118 individuals were arrested in the undercover sting operation.
According to Sheriff Chad Chronister, “The housing market is booming in Tampa Bay right now, but that also means that fraudsters are looking to exploit homeowners.¨ He also stated that the unlicensed and potentially unqualified contractors are only interested in taking people´s money and do not care about the quality of work or safety. The total amount of proposed work in the sting operation was over $540,000.
The unlicensed contractors who were arrested ran ¨home repair service advertisements on websites such as Facebook, Craigslist and placed advertisements on their vehicles. Some of those who were arrested had lengthy criminal records and others had their state contractors license revoked. Of the 118 individuals, the report states that 8 individuals were repeat offenders.
In the past several years, hundreds of unqualified and unlicensed contracts have been caught and arrested by law enforcement for selling contracting services without a Florida contracting license. Some victims paid out money but the projects were never completed.
Florida´s Contracting Without a License Charges, Laws and Defenses
Florida law requires all building and home repair contractors to hold a valid Florida contractor´s license. Florida Statute 489.127 makes unlicensed contracting a crime in the State of Florida. The criminal offense of “Contracting Without a License” could be a misdemeanor or felony charge. “Contracting Without a License” in the State of Florida can become a felony charge if the defendant has prior convictions.
“Contracting Without a License” covers a broad range of construction and home improvement services. According to Florida Statutes Section 489.127, there are 9 various ways to commit the crime of “Contracting Without a License.” A first-time offense is usually a misdemeanor charge that carries a fine of $1,000 and up to one year in jail. If the offender has previous convictions, the unlicensed contractor may face a third-degree felony charge. A third-degree felony conviction is punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in jail or 5 years of probation. If the offender has been charged with “Contracting Without a License” during a ¨State of Emergency,” the crime becomes a third-degree felony automatically. In addition, if an individual is found guilty or pleads guilty to “Contracting Without a License,” the offender will often be subject to pay the victim or victims some sort of court-ordered restitution. This means the offender will have to pay the victim or victims a large sum of money through a court-ordered restitution award.
A Few Common Defenses to a “Contracting Without a License” Criminal Charge
- No license is required.
- No illegal representations were made to the victim.
- The unlicensed contractor did not act as a “contractor.”
- The prosecution is unable to prove the defendant was unlicensed or unregistered.
Free, Confidential Criminal Defense Case Review
If you or a member of your family has been arrested and charged with “Contracting Without a License,” speak with Musca Law today. Call Musca Law 24/7 at 888-484-5057 24/7 for your free and confidential case review.