Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Unlicensed contractors nailed in undercover Gulfport operation

GULFPORT — The condo owner said he wanted someone to remodel his bathroom.

The job required knocking out a wall in his first-floor unit. The problem: It was a load bearing wall.

None of the eight contractors who inquired about the job said removing the wall — which helps support the entire building — could create a safety hazard.

"None of them said it was a load-bearing wall," said Gulfport police Lt. Howard Coombs. "They just said they'd do it."

Now all eight are in legal trouble. In an unusual sting, the condo owner was actually an undercover state agent, according to police, and the contractors who offered to do the work were all unlicensed.

That's a misdemeanor offense in Florida punishable by a fine, probation or even time in the county jail.

Police identified those nabbed in the sting as: Tony Alan Blair of Largo; Jose H. Collazos and Renan M. Collazos of Oldsmar; Perry Houston Harkness of St. Petersburg; Robert W. Herbert of Tampa; Robert J. Marsic Jr. of Tampa; Clarence R. Rediker of St. Petersburg; and Minh Mgoc Tran of Pinellas Park.

Some of the unlicensed contractors were given notices to appear, police said, while others were arrested on unrelated charges. One was arrested for violating felony probation and the other was arrested on charges of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, according to police.

The operation was jointly run by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Gulfport Police Department. The goal was to deter unlicensed and poorly trained contractors from preying on people by taking their money and performing poor-quality work — or no work at all.

"To me this has been an age-old problem," Coombs said. "People come in to this state and just prey on the elderly and on those who don't know any better.

"They think it's a victimless crime, that they're doing someone a favor." Until the customer is left with incomplete or a shoddily done work, that is.

The sting started Monday and ended Wednesday at the Gulf Shore Condominiums at 2900 45th St. S. The undercover agent went through ads placed in local papers by area handymen and arranged the meetings inside the condo, police said, which were all recorded.

The contractors knew or should have known that removing a load-bearing wall puts the stability of an entire structure at risk, along with everyone inside.

"It's very dangerous," said builder Joel Cantor of St. Petersburg's Cantor Partners LLC. "Usually when you do that, it has to be done with a permit, and you need plans from a structural engineer to show how to brace it and replace it.

"Would you let an unlicensed doctor give you bypass surgery? It could work, but maybe not."

Cantor, who was contacted by the Times to explain the dangers of removing a load-bearing wall, said he isn't surprised that so many would be willing to do anything for a paying job.

"I think it's a reflection of where the economy is today," said Cantor, 45. "There's a lot of desperate people trying to make a quick buck, and people need to be especially vigilant."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.



Call to alert officials

Consumers can report unlicensed individuals and businesses to the state by calling 1-866-532-1440. They also can verify licenses and search complaints by visiting www.MyFloridaLicense.com.

Unlicensed contractors nailed in undercover Gulfport operation 11/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 10:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    President Donald Trump on Monday condemned the fatal stabbing of two good Samaritans trying to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade on a Portland, Ore., light rail train.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  2. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  3. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)
  4. Photo gallery: Nation pays respects to America's war dead on Memorial Day

    Human Interest

    At Memorial Day ceremonies in Tampa Bay area and around the country, Americans paid tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

    Eight-year-old Piper St. Jean, of Tampa, uses a brush to clean the grave of her grandfather, Henry St. Jean, who served with the United States Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens on Monday moments after the conclusion of their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor. The event featured guest speakers, live choral performances by the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church choir and live music by Bones South, an area trombone ensemble with rhythm section. On Saturday local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops placed flags on veterans???‚??„? graves prior to the event. This is an annual tradition of Curlew Hills' Memorial Day services and helps the Scout troops achieve merit badges. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.
  5. Protest sparks Texas lawmaker threats of gun violence

    National

    AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of protesters opposing Texas' tough new anti-"sanctuary cities" law launched a raucous demonstration from the public gallery in the Texas House on Monday, briefly halting work and prompting lawmakers on the floor below to scuffle — and even threaten gun violence — as tense …