A Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board employee has been arrested on public corruption charges after deputies said she entered into an improper business relationship with a company she was assigned to investigate.
Andrea Wagner, 39, worked as an investigator for the licensing board, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a news conference Wednesday. She struck up a relationship in 2020 with Rachel Debrakins and Chris Thompson, the owners of St. Petersburg-based Credence Construction, Gualtieri said, and Wagner began referring clients to them.
Over the course of the year, Wagner loaned the company $90,000, contracted with them to work on her properties and even agreed to sell them a house she owned, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
In her role as an investigator for the licensing board, Wagner investigated a complaint against Debrakins’ cabinet company. While Wagner cited Debrakins, she also cited the person who filed the complaint, Gualtieri said.
Another person filed a complaint against Credence for using an unlicensed plumber. Though the allegations were founded, the Sheriff said, Wagner failed to cite both Credence and the plumber, instead filing a citation against the complainant.
Things began to go south, however, after Wagner told Credence’s owners that she wasn’t happy with the work they had done on a house she agreed to sell them, according to the Sheriff’s Office. She said she wanted her money back.
Throughout all of 2021, the two argued back and forth. Eventually, they agreed that Credence would pay back the $90,000 loan, plus another $9,000 in interest and the $115,000 cost of the home, Gualtieri said.
However, Wagner never signed the deed to the house. When she saw that Credence was listing the home for $749,000, she wanted more money. She told Thompson she wouldn’t sign the deed until she received the settlement amount, plus an additional $136,000, according to the Sheriff’s Office. In exchange, she offered to turn a blind eye to future complaints against Credence, Gualtieri said.
At this point, Thompson began to worry Wagner might retaliate, given her false citations against people in the past, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Thompson contacted his attorney, who alerted Pinellas County government. The sheriff’s office began investigating about five or six weeks ago, Gualtieri said. Wagner was arrested Wednesday morning.
A man who answered the phone at Credence Construction on Wednesday referred the Tampa Bay Times to his attorney, who could not be reached.
There are currently no open complaints against the company, said licensing board director Michelle Krickovic.
“We are reviewing information and will respond as appropriate,” Krickovic said via email in response to a question of whether the company would face sanctions for its involvement with Wagner.
Gualtieri said there is no indication that Credence’s owners committed criminal acts, but the investigation is ongoing.
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Wagner resigned on May 10. The board hasn’t received any other allegations against her, Krickovic said.
She faces felony charges of bribery and misconduct. If found guilty, she faces up to 20 years in prison. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
This isn’t the first time the board has been involved in scandal.
The previous board was dissolved in 2018 and placed under the authority of the Pinellas County Commission after an inspector general’s report and a grand jury found that the board failed in its duties to consumers.
A 2017 Tampa Bay Times investigation found that the board’s executive director intervened in hundreds of cases without the board’s approval. The board, which did not report to any other agencies at the time, also failed to keep public records of its meetings and entertained multiple conflicts of interest, the Times also found.