Sarasota County Building Official Greg Yantorno has been fighting unlicensed contracting since 2009. Last week, his department helped the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office conduct a sting that busted 20 alleged perpetrators.
Deputies arrested 20 men for a variety of charges related to operating a construction business without a license, including workers compensation and insurance violations. The county, the Sheriff's Office, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations and the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud worked together to contact and lure suspects to a decoy home from Nov. 13 to Nov. 15 as part of Operation Freelance, according to a news release.
Charges included 15 felonies and 36 misdemeanors, and the county issued $2,000 citations to each of the men arrested in the operation.
"We were really trying to hit them in their pocketbook," said Yantorno, who this year was tapped to head a newly-created county division to root out unlicensed contractors.
Click here for a list of the suspects arrested during the operation.
"Legitimate Sarasota County businesses are undercut by unlicensed contractors, but that's not the sole reason citizens should make sure they hire licensed professionals," said Sheriff Tom Knight in the release. "Using a licensed contractor protects consumers financially, shields them from potential litigation and ensures their safety because shoddy work can only be detected during the inspection process."
The Sheriff's Office conducted a similar operation in 2010.
"We're going to do this again," Yantorno said. "We're heading full steam with our quest to reduce the amount of unlicensed contractors in the county."