A nine-day undercover sting by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office resulted in the arrests of 16 unlicensed contractors working in the Sun City Center area.
The agency announced the results of the sting called "Operation Retrofit" on Monday. Detectives responded to ads from known or suspected unlicensed contractors to get estimates on a variety of projects at a single-family home loaned to the agency for the operation.
Two detectives posed as brothers who claimed they needed remodeling work done on their elderly mother's home to accommodate a wheelchair and walker, Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a news conference.
"None of them had a contractor's license," he said. "But they were so eager to take our money."
The suspects offered estimates totaling more than $117,000 without presenting the proper licensing, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Charges are pending against six more people.
James Edward Hanko, 53, had been a fugitive for seven years and was wanted in Wisconsin on charges of sexual assault, lewd and lascivious behavior, larceny from a business and a parole violation, according to Hillsborough officials.
"He actually bragged about being able to avoid the law for seven years," Chronister said.
Another one of the arrestees, Donald Edward Tucker, 55, had already been investigated by the construction fraud unit. He was charged with felony unlicensed contracting as a repeat offender.
The other arrestees are: Piot Bis, 42; Kenneth Boisvert, 58; Darrin Butts, 57; Humberto Calero, 56; Francisco Chavez, 31; Reynaldo Garcia, 63; William Kouts, 62; Justin Miller, 31; Marcos Murillo, 68; David Palacios, 30; Steven Paul, 38; Eduardo Rivera, 48; Ricardo Ruiz, 32; and Robert Sanders, 37.
Chronister urged homeowners to demand to see a license and proof of insurance before hiring and paying a contractor.
Contact Tony Marrero at email@example.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.