A comprehensive investigation undertaken by several local agencies resulted in the arrests of nine suspected unlicensed contractors in Hernando County.
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office Economic Crimes Detectives, together with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Hernando County Building Department and the Brooksville City Building Officials, conducted the sting.
Arrested were Ronald Kay, 33; Sergio Marcano-Padilla, 58; William Thomas, 42; Peter Spadola, 54; Thomas Salvadore, 50; Todd Mack, 47; Douglas Gioglio, 48; Frank Palazzo, 44; and Mark Belkola, 53.
During the investigation, the sheriff's office identified multiple subjects that were advertising contractor license-required services through online advertising, newspapers and other forms of advertisement circulated throughout the county. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Hernando County Building Department assisted the sheriff's office by verifying that none of the subjects held a contractor's license.
As a precursor to the sting, the sheriff's office established contact with each of the suspects. During the calls, the subjects were asked to perform work that, according to Florida law, would require a contractor's license.
On Thursday and Friday, each of the identified suspects responded to a pre-determined location in Hernando to give an estimate for the jobs that required a contractor's license.
All nine of the suspects who came to the location were identified and arrested.
The latest investigation resembled a Nov. 10, 2011, sting when detectives staged an undercover operation and arrested four suspects. Since then, detectives have continued to monitor unlicensed contractors, according to the sheriff's office.
"Businesses, particularly those that are building or repair contractors, are licensed to ensure the safety of the consumer," said Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis in a media statement. "Unlicensed contractors not only leave a citizen without recourse when the work is substandard; they can also endanger the lives of those same customers if the work is not up to code. This operation will, hopefully, send a message to both the legal and the illegal contractors that unlicensed activity will not be tolerated in Hernando County."
Complaints or suspicions of illegal activity may be emailed to ULA@dbpr.state.fl.us or by calling (866) 532-1400.
Consumers can verify a license of an individual or business by contacting the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at (850) 487-1395.