Deputies Arrest Unlicensed Contractors During “Operation Cast Out” Undercover Sting in Madeira Beach
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
Patrol Operations Bureau
- Economic Crimes Unit
- Community Policing Unit
Florida Department of Financial Services
State Attorney Sixth Judicial Court
Detectives assigned to the Economic Crimes Unit, along with various other Sheriff’s Office components, and other state and county agencies worked collaboratively in an undercover sting to charge and arrest unlicensed contractors working in Pinellas County during “Operation Cast Out”.
The operation began on Saturday November 3, 2018 and ended on Monday November 5, 2018.
The undercover sting operation was conducted at a store front located at 200 150th Avenue, Madeira Beach.
Detectives assigned to the Economic Crimes Unit along with the Florida Department of Financial Services, and the State Attorney Sixth Judicial Court worked collaboratively to charge and arrest unlicensed contractors working in Pinellas County during an operation coined “Operation Cast Out”.
Investigators arrested 35 suspects with 65 criminal charges and referred one suspect to the State Attorney’s Office for two additional criminal charges. These charges include unlicensed specialty contracting violations, workers compensation fraud, and various other criminal charges unrelated to unlicensed contracting.
The undercover sting operation was conducted at a vacant store front located at 200 150th Avenue, Madeira Beach, and began on Saturday November 3, 2018 and ended on Monday November 5, 2018. Through this undercover sting operation, undercover detectives were solicited by unlicensed specialty contracting suspects who offered to perform illegal unlicensed contracting work at the store front.
Detectives say these unlicensed contractors were found advertising on websites to include Facebook, Craigslist, Next Door, and various other social media platforms. The suspects came to the business and met with undercover detectives while offering to do a variety of work that included electrical, painting, drywall, and tile work.
All of these suspects agreed to engage in this illegal contracting work without a license and without pulling a permit.
The results of this weekend’s operation reinforces the fact that unlicensed contracting is still an ongoing problem in Pinellas County.
Sheriff Gualtieri said, “It’s really not hard, we’re setting up these undercover operations and we make the phone calls and they come. It really is too easy. When we start seeing the numbers go down and we start seeing people show up who are licensed, then we’ll know we are making a difference and we’ve made an impact in this.”
There has been a total of 110 suspects arrested and over 240 criminal charges since the inception of the first undercover sting “Operation Nailed” on August 7, 2017.
Last year, the Sheriff’s Office undertook the responsibility in conjunction with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board to investigate violations of state law and county ordinance violations regarding unlicensed contracting. On July 1, 2018, a law was passed that abolished the existing licensing board in Pinellas County and turned the responsibility over to Pinellas County Government. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate criminal violations and work with Pinellas County Government to help protect citizens being exploited by those engaged in unlicensed contracting.
Citizens in Pinellas County can search for licensed contractors or report unlicensed construction activity by visiting the PCCLB website here: http://www.pcclb.com/ . Citizens can also report violations of unlicensed contracting by contacting the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office at (727) 582-6200.