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Unlicensed contractor sting in Hillsborough nets 118 arrests, 9 repeat offenders

Detectives used five houses throughout the county to set up 191 appointments for home repair work with unlicensed contractors, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

TAMPA — A 9-month sting targeting unlicensed contractors in Hillsborough County last year netted 118 arrests, authorities announced Tuesday.

The sting called Operation House Hunters spanned from March to December and involved undercover Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detectives posing as homeowners. The detectives used five houses throughout the county to set up 191 appointments for home repair work with unlicensed contractors advertising services through social media and online classified ads.

One of the unlicensed contractors, 47-year-old Troy Massey, told detectives he could install recessed lighting and paint the inside of their home for $1,100. Detectives learned that Massey’s state certified contractors license was revoked in 2011 after he was disciplined two years prior for abandoning a project in Hillsborough County and failing to take care of requirements imposed on him during the disciplinary hearing, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Along with unlicensed contracting, Massey faces a charge of violating his probation stemming from a previous burglary conviction, deputies said.

Charles Vernice Sanders, 46, was one of 118 suspects arrested in an undercover sting by the Hillsborough County Sheriff' Office and charged with unlicensed contracting. Sanders was one of nine suspects charged as a repeat offender. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]

Another of the arrested, 46-year-old Charles Vernice Sanders, was one of nine repeat offenders arrested in the sting. Sanders agreed to paint the exterior of their home for $4,000. Three months earlier, Sanders met with undercover detectives and claimed he could remodel two bathrooms, a kitchen, install tile floors and paint their entire home, inside and out, for less than $20,000, the agency said.

A second offense for unlicensed contracting is a felony. Eight others arrested in the sting were charged as repeat offenders.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister advised homeowners to verify a contractor’s license at and conduct a background check through the Better Business Bureau.