St. Petersburg, Fla. (970 WFLA) - A sting operation targeting unlicensed contractors in Pinellas County led to 29 arrests on more than 60 charges, the Sheriff's Office said.
"Operation Flush Out" set up a fake storefront in St. Petersburg over the weekend, with undercover deputies in the fictitious business advertising for contractors to do things like electrical, dry wall and tile work.
Twenty-nine showed up. "Not one had a license," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. Deputies arrested them on a total of more than 60 charges, including unlicensed specialty contracting violations, workers compensation fraud, and various other criminal charges unrelated to unlicensed contracting.
One person wrote her contract on a scrap of paper, Gualtieri said. Many who cut corners on getting licensed or pulling proper permits will do shoddy work, if they do any work at all after taking a client's money. "People are being preyed on," he said. "They're getting ripped off."
Gualtieri said that many build fines into the cost of doing business, and hopes that jail time will change their minds about operating without a license. "Go get licensed. Stop doing it illegally, or you're going to go to jail," he warned.
Photos courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.