TAMPA — Three unlicensed contractors have been arrested by a new undercover officer who targets the construction industry, Tampa police said Tuesday. The department created the position with funding from construction permitting fees.
David Pacheco, Luther Turner and Rene Crespo were all invited to an office by investigators to possibly get a contracting job, said Capt. Brett Bartlett of the Tampa police criminal intelligence unit.
Each man was told of a job and when they named their prices they were arrested for contracting without a license, he added.
Pacheco, 42, of 4529 Brayra Road was targeted because he was circulating fliers without a contractor number on it, which is against the law, Bartlett said.
"It was like saying please arrest me because if you don't put a contractor number on your fliers, it's because you don't have one," he explained.
Turner, 65, of 3130 W Lambright Ave. has been charged previously with contracting without a license.
And Crespo, 46, of 4002 S Manhattan Ave. is being investigated in another case involving unlicensed construction.
For years, two former police investigators worked together to catch unlicensed contractors in the middle of their scams.
But because they were no longer officers, they couldn't make arrests, which tied up their cases in paperwork until an officer was available.
When Detective Jeanette Hevel joined the unit in June, arrests could be made immediately, and they've busted 12 contractors since then.
"It's important work because a lot of the people who get scammed by these guys are seniors who pay $10,000 to $20,000 and they just don't have that kind of money to lose," Bartlett said.
To protect yourself, Bartlett suggests asking for full name, company name and contractor number. Check www.myfloridalicense.com or call the city construction services at (813) 274-3100 to verify information.