Pasco: Undercover sting on unlicensed contractors nets nine arrests

HOLIDAY — The inquiries for ceiling repair, window replacement and air conditioning inspection came through Craigslist ads, and the men arrived at a home in Holiday ready to do the work.

They left the job site in handcuffs.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office conducted an undercover sting on Friday and Saturday to catch unlicensed contractors and those working without workers' compensation. Undercover deputies found people offering their services through Craigslist, then invited them to the job site. Once the men filled out written work proposals for the jobs, they were arrested.

The men arrested on charges of contracting without a license and working without workers' compensation were: Christopher Nazario, 43; Harry Bynum, 46; Adam Barnhart, 33; Adam Pitt, 41; Eric Wieszchowski, 42; and Blair Goodrow, 43.

Marcelino Loperena, 45, who has a contractor's license, was charged with not having workers' compensation. Scott Wieszchowski, 45, was given a notice to appear in court for contracting without a license.

Sgt. Justin Ross of the Pasco sheriff's economic crimes unit, who headed the operation, said unlicensed contractors can be dangerous. Without proper training, he said, the contractors risk making home modifications that aren't up to code or permitting standards, leaving the homeowner liable for fines for building code violations. The homeowner could also be liable if a worker is hurt on site and doesn't have workers' compensation, which is mandated by Florida law.

Unlicensed contractors also undercut licensed contractors' prices, a sheriff's press release states, calling their work "unfair competition."

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation offers guidance on how to avoid dealing with unlicensed contractors:

• When hiring a contractor, ask to see his or her license, then verify the license number at www.MyFloridaLicense.com or call (850) 487-1395.

• Don't pay more than 10 percent of the total cost of the project or $1,000, whichever is less, before the job is finished.

• Check contractors' references and get a written contract.

• Beware of contractors who solicit door-to-door or who only accept cash.

• Don't sign a certificate of completion until the job is finished.

Contact Alex Orlando at aorlando@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6247.

Pasco: Undercover sting on unlicensed contractors nets nine arrests 05/07/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 7:02pm]

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