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10 Unlicensed Contractors, 8 from Flagler, Arrested in a Sting Operation

| March 22, 2013

Unlicensed switch. (TinyTall)

Unlicensed switch. (TinyTall)

The contractor would come in to a house and talk about installing plumbing lines or installing three shampoo bowl sinks. He’d also agree to install electrical wires and electrical outlets or ceiling light fixtures. He’d work out the agreement verbally. He’d give an estimate: $400 to $700 for the plumbing work, $60 for each for light fixtures.

What the contractor would not know was that he was negotiating with undercover agents and being recorded. Nor would the contractor know that, if he was unlicensed, as many were during the sting operation, he’d be arrested.

Ten such unlicensed contractors were arrested in a coordinated two-day undercover operation from a house in Bunnell. All but two of the suspects were from Flagler County.

Investigators placed calls to individuals who had advertised services that would have required that they possess a Florida contractor’s license. The ads appeared in newspapers and on the Internet. Investigators then scheduled appointments with these unlicensed individuals to receive an estimate for work at a home on South Railroad Avenue in Bunnell. After completing the operation earlier this week, investigators moved in Thursday to arrest 10 individuals on charges of performing Construction without a License or Electrical work without a License. Five of those arrested Thursday have previous convictions for violations of the state licensing requirement.

The investigators working on the operation involved deputies assigned to the Safe Neighborhood Unit of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, who worked with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the City of Palm Coast Business Tax Department, the Flagler County Building Department, and the Florida Department of Financial Services – Divisions of Fraud and Workers Compensation.

“The individuals caught in this sting operation prey on residents of our county, taking money out of the pockets of hard working legitimate business owners,” Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre said Friday. “Many of these phony contractors have prior criminal records and are people you really don’t want inside your house or around your family.”

Jay Maher, supervisor of the Business Tax Department for the City of Palm Coast, urged residents to check the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation website as well as those of Flagler County and City of Palm Coast to see if a contractor is licensed. He also suggested that before any money changes hands, residents request the contractor provide proof of insurance. “Many of those arrested are people we get complaints on all the time,” Maher said. “Homeowners need to be aware of the risk they take when they hire someone who is not licensed. What initially may seem like a good deal often ends up costing the homeowner a lot more.”

Those arrested and charged with construction without a license and doing electrical work without a license (some as misdemeanors, some as felonies) were:

John Vincent Benning, 46, 4 Carol Court, Palm Coast.
Mark C. Green, 52, 18 Woodborn Lane, Palm Coast.
Elias Jorge Torres, 33, 9 Pine Hurst Lane, Palm Coast.
Joseph Owen Ricker, 51, 27 Webb Lane, Palm Coast.
Russell Alan Iglesias, 55, 4571 Canal Ave., Bunnell.
Dennis Dean McDonald, 65, 120 Bridgehaven Drive, Palm Coast.
Robert James Barrow, 53, 2930 N. Oceanshore Blvd., Flagler Beach.
Lawrence Jeffrey Cohn, 28, 801 Coleman Ave., Deltona.
Earl D. Jacobs, 57, 606 River Fern Lane, Deland.

Raul Troche, 57, 70 Belleaire Drive, Palm Coast, was charged with just Construction without a License.

Charging affidavits were completed on two other subjects for Construction without a License. The affidavits are being submitted to the State Attorney’s Office to consider filing formal charges.

Unlicensed activity is illegal and can result in misdemeanor or felony charges if an individual is convicted. Floridians may report any suspected unlicensed activity to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation by emailing ULA@dbpr.state.fl.us or calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at (866) 532‐1440.

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15 Responses for “10 Unlicensed Contractors, 8 from Flagler, Arrested in a Sting Operation”

  1. Mel Bronson says:

    These frudulent unqualified “contractors” that contract without a license that are preying on gullible homeowners must be charged with felonies that carry hefty fines and jail time. FSS 489 must be changed to have real FANGS in it to convince these criminals not to risk defrauding homeowners.

    That is the only genuine deterrent against this type of venal crime that makes homeowners vulnerable to such unscrupulous greedy low lifes.

    Homeowners MUST verify proper in force license with any one representing themselves as a tradesman. They can easily and quickly perform a search at the DBPR website whenever they are planning to contract work. They must do their due diligence to help protect themselves.

  2. Larry says:

    Yea…Arrest them criminals…How dare they try and make a living here in this city and not pay the sheriff his duty fees. How much longer before they put a tax on how many times you flush your toilet everyday ? This city HAS NO JOBS for the population. At least these guys were TRYING to work and feed their families.
    How about STOPPING the inmates from cutting the road sides for FREE while taking jobs from needy Lanscapers. How about all those illegal aliens working for Hammock Dunes…WELL !!!! This place is becoming a DICTATORSHIP like New York City………

    • blamegame says:

      there are jobs you just have to get off your couch and go apply for them. may not be the job you want but at least it could put food on your table until you find the job you do want.

      • Samantha says:

        Couch…who has a couch ? Had to sell that at the garage sale last week to pay rent. Now I just sit on a bucket ALL DAY and watch the county work trucks go by..every 10 minutes. Can I get a job like those guys ? Or perhabs a job as county code enforcer…Now there is the job to have. Do I get a my own ruler to measure the blades of grass ? JOBS !!!!! What a freaking joke !!!!

    • Nick Wanerka says:

      Really? I work hard to keep all my ducks in a row. After schooling and paying for a state license and workers comp and liability insurance!! All the overhead for a legit business and then you get these guys who do the job cheaper and might not even be skilled to do so!! Criminals? Heck yea they are. Not only are they taking advantage of homeowners. They are taking jobs away from the honest plumbers, electrictians, and so on. The licensed contractors pay a lot of money to stay legit to protect themselves and the homeowners. If one Of these guys burns down your house, your insurance wont cover it plus his insurance (if he has any) won’t cover it ether. Stick with the pros!! So yes these guys are criminals. Don’t let an unlicensed contractor ever do work for you. If they are so good at what they do then why not get licensed?!?

    • Reality Check says:

      @ Larry, I agree to a point, the illegals have got to go but the inmates cutting grass I am all for. Your in prison you should be forced to work for the crime you committed, this actually saves tax payers money in the long run. These contractors with out a license, they need to be fined and forced on the spot to pay the license fee. Not only do they possibly rip people off but they can cause serious damage to a home or business by not having the proper skills to complete the job. They are making it harder for the guy who does it the right way; he gets insurance, pays for advertising but cannot compete in price because of a guy who just goes out with no overhead. Just because someone buys a tool belt does not make them a contractor, would you want a guy with no insurance or the proper skills wiring up a ceiling fan over your child’s crib?

    • Nancy N. says:

      Yes, sure, Larry…let’s get rid of the inmates doing the grass cutting and swale maintenance. And then you will scream bloody murder when the city and county raise your taxes because they have to pay those needy landscape crews to do those tasks. Money doesn’t grow on those trees that the inmates are trimming, you know….

    • rj says:

      YOU NEED TO HAVE A LICENSE TO WORK. YOU NEED TO HAVE PROPER TRAINING TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. It is not fair to the legal license workers who HAVE INSURANCE, BONDS, SCHOOLING and are trained to do the work. It is not about the sheriff and these people working are MOST LIKELY on unemployment working under the table because they have NO license, NO insurance. We are working and paying the unemployment, food stamps, free phones, and who knows what else so they can steel work from the licensed, insured, companies paying for them to sit on their butts and wait on easy work.

  3. Sad Times says:

    Thank you, Flaglerlive…..for posting the names of the illegal contractors… this is a valuable service for Palm Coast/Flagler residents… and I greatly appreciate your reporting.

    We all work/worked very hard for our money… and are willing to pay legitimate contractors who do excellent work…. and it is devastating to be “taken for a ride” by workers who do not know what they are dong and who just want to take money from folks…. without having to work for it.

    Thank you again.

  4. Deep South says:

    Before you hire anybody to come on your property to do work you should do these two things. 1. Go on line and check to see if the so called contractor is licensed and insured. 2. File a “Notice to Owner” to protect you against any construction liens that could be filed against you and the contractor by suppliers, sud – contractors, banks, or anyone the contractor has used to perform his work on your property. I believe one reason why homeowners use a unlicensed contractor is because they are cheap, and they want to save money. But in the long run they are going to pay more than they wanted to.

  5. Safety guy says:

    To: Larry says.

    I understand that you would hire a potential crook such as Devin R. McKenna, 26 years old who stole jewelry, guns, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for possession of a controlled substance, is that about right? The city of Palm Coast said long ago they were going to try to do all the work in house using Palm Coast City employees and use the prisoners to save money to help defray the money lost to a decline in taxes due to the recession. Have you documented those illegal aliens in Hammock Dunes? I know several Latino/Spanish people who work for Vertego. All of them are legal. One of them installed my front patio. He is the same guy that installed most of the Pavers in the Towne Centre. I just had some work done inside the house by Carpet One of Palm Coast. Licensed and insured workers. Do you realize if you hire a worker in the State of Florida that has no Worker’s Compensation insurance and they are hurt or disabled that you will become their Worker’s Compensation? The State will not place them on welfare to get Medicaid when they have you as the one who hired a non-insured worker. Of course it is a right in this country to be as smart or as ignorant as one wishes to be isn’t it?

  6. biker says:

    Larry most of these guys were just thieves. They even give unlicensed contractors a bad name.

  7. Stevie says:

    Some unlicensed people simply don’t have the money to pay for all the legal requirements since the construction industry was hit so hard recently. People don’t realize what is costs to comply and the laws are always changing and getting more expensive. Not too long ago construction people could self exclude from workers comp and payed nominal fees for licenses [as low as $15] and America got built anyway. Check your history.

    Licensed contractors get suspended all the time for dishonesty. A license is no replacement for integrity. Illegal immigrants have ruined much of the construction industry and I have no sympathy for them. You rarely see them caught.

  8. confidential says:

    Sometimes you go to the DBPR web site and the information is not properly updated…as for example a cigar business in EV Palm Coast caught selling smokes to minors shows with a inactive license…? as several others open and working in this county and elsewhere in Fl. under their given business name.
    Some are licensed under a totally different name that the store or owners name….then you will be able to locate them in the DBPR neither with Scotland Yard…so what is up with that and why Tallahassee allows it?
    That a contractor operates with a local license is not a reassurance of good work or that is not a thieve.
    The only difference is that he/she pays the government for a license, regarding skills, honesty etc. is not guaranteed by the government licensing the contractor. Unfortunately this is the bare reality. Now if a contractor is a thieve, I agree belongs in jail…but if he/she did a good job and didn’t spend the $$ to get a license…jail or a hefty fine should not be the punishment. Give them a chance to “pay the fee for a license” at least the first time caught. We have enough crowded jails so costly to us all and enough unemployed trying to make a decent buck before they resource to crime.

  9. Dom Salvatore says:

    Great Job. If you are not licensed to perform a certain job don’t do the job!! I own my own business and I am licensed and insured. I play by the book! I turn down many jobs a week which are outside my scope of work. I recomend people I know who are licensed to do the work. But still I give estimates for work and don’t get the job because a unlicensed and uninsured person comes in with a lower price and gets the job. Keep up the good work Flagler county and the City of Palm Coast.

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