Pinellas County deputies have been on a mission to arrest contractors accused of operating without licenses.
In a sting conducted from Saturday through early Monday called “Operation Flush Out,” 30 people were arrested after pitching electrical, drywall and other construction services to undercover detectives.
The three-day sting produced a combination of at least 60 felony and misdemeanor charges against people offering to work without a license or insurance, the sheriff said.
It is the sheriff’s third sting since October to combat the hundreds of unlicensed contractors who rip off homeowners and leave properties in shambles.
Contracting without a license carries a misdemeanor for first-time offenses and a felony the second time. Other violations include felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud. Florida law requires contractors in the construction industry to carry the insurance. Without it, violators can lower prices and steal business from licensed and insured contractors.
In the state of Florida, unlicensed contracting is usually charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 1 year in jail or 12 months of probation, and a $1,000.00 fine. If the accused has been previously convicted of contracting without a license, the offense may be charged as third-degree felony, which carries penalties of up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation and a $5,000 fine.
When it comes to charges of contracting without a license, it is vital to have a criminal defense attorney on your side to identify possible defenses and to minimize potential penalties. However, many people accused of this charge opt to plead guilty to the charge in order to avoid the expense of an attorney. By doing this, they obtain permanent criminal records, risk their chances of obtaining a license in the future and get slapped with paying out restitution to alleged victims that claim they performed substandard work or used sub-standard materials and caused a loss.