MIAMI (CBS4) – They came looking for work.
Instead, they left in handcuffs.
Only CBS 4’s cameras were allowed inside the sting.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office concluded an undercover sting operation in northern Broward County Thursday which cracked down on unlicensed contractors. In particular, the operation targeted many repeat offenders identified by Broward County’s Consumer Protection Division.
“People just need to be aware that there are a lot of people still out there looking for any type of work that you can bring them in to do,” said BSO Detective Daniel Belyeu. “But (homeowners) do need to be cautious of who they’re inviting into their home.”
Belyeu says he’s seen people with violent criminal records working as unlicensed contractors.
In this week’s sting, Broward County investigators say many of the guys nabbed are repeat offenders.
“We tried to work with them and help them get licensed,” said Raini Moran, an investigator with Broward County’s Licensing and Consumer Protection Division. “They failed to get licensed or follow through with the license and they’re still out there advertising and obviously engaging in contracting.”
In all, the operation netted 19 arrests. Those arrested will be charged with a misdemeanor count of unlicensed contracting. If convicted, those arrested could face a fine and up to one year in jail.
Broward County’s Licensing and Consumer Protection Division county issued 19 citations, the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud charged 7 people with worker’s compensation violations and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations issued cease and desist orders to 7 people.
The sting focused on contractors from many trades — plumbing, painting, electrical and other disciplines. What they had in common, investigators say, is a failure to be properly licensed in their trade in Broward County.
They were lured to the home in an upscale community in northern Broward with the possibility of a job. But once they arrived and made their pitch to undercover detectives, they were arrested.
Broward County employees were also on hand to instruct those arrested in how to become properly licensed.
Several of the unlicensed contractors arrested admitted to CBS 4’s Carey Codd that they either weren’t licensed.
“Do you have a license to do the work?,” Codd asked Phillip Stack.
Stack replied, “No. I don’t have a license but I have done work before.”
“Don’t you need a license to do this type of work?” Codd inquired.
“Not if I’m doing some home improvement for people I didn’t think I needed all of that,” Stack said.
Others arrested said they weren’t aware of the rules — for instance, that being licensed in one county doesn’t necessarily mean they are licensed in another county.
“Very sad about the situation,” said Jason Wagner. “I wish it could be different. I had no idea that the big difference between Dade and Broward was going to be an arrest and I’m sorry.”
This is the 15th operation of this type performed by BSO in recent years.
Detective Belyeu says being ignorant of the laws is no excuse for the unlicensed contractors.
And it isn’t for homeowners either. The takeaway for homeowners from operations like these is to get educated.
“Be an informed consumer,” Belyeu said. “Do a little bit of homework. Do your research. Don’t just take the comment from these contractors — or unlicensed contractor at face value. Make sure you check them out.”
Belyeu says many unlicensed contractors advertise on Cragislist because it’s free. Instead, investigators say before you hire anyone to do work on your home, check out the following websites:
Click Here for Broward County’s Licensing and Consumer Protection Division.
Click Here for the Department of Business and Professional Regulations.