MANATEE Fourteen local laborers were charged in connection with an unlicensed contracting case earlier this month, according to Manatee County officials.
Manatee County sheriffs deputies arrested the suspects Feb. 15-16, saying they were attempting contract work without proper licenses.
Sheriffs deputies teamed up with the Manatee County Building and Development Services Department, and the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation in connection with the case, county officials said.
Each man had submitted a proposal to undercover investigators for construction work that required a contractors license they didnt have, officials said.
Each was issued an unlicensed construction citation and charged with a misdemeanor, and issued a notice to appear in court, officials said.
The state also issued cease-and-desist orders to each one, officials said.
Those charged in connection with the case included: Eugene Rizzo; Michael Szjbut; Martin Rodriguez-Estrada; Joseph Ambrosino; Jose Rivera; Patrick Merchant; William Luff; Raymond Robinson, Jr.; Matthew Wheatley; Lawrence Slipko; David Moore; James Reese; Timothy Gretsinger, and Travis Hall, officials said.
Unlicensed contract work has become a serious problem
during the economic downturn since homeowners are tempted to turn to the least expensive option available, according to John Barnott, director of Manatee County Building and Development Services Department.
Hiring an unlicensed contractor often leads to serious headaches for a homeowner, Barnott said Monday.
Unlicensed contractors can perform unsafe or shoddy work, and when its time to sell a home, the seller may not be able to close the title with home improvements that were never legally permitted, he said.
We will continue to crack down, not only with the contractors, but with the property owners who knowingly hire them, said Barnott.
State officials aid local authorities in mounting similar sting operations across the state, according to Sandi Copes Poreda, communications director for the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation.
In this instance, the Manatee County Sheriffs Office functioned as the lead agency, she said, adding, We do have several (more) planned elsewhere around the state.
Those who work without licenses pose a threat to the jobs of professionals who have expended time, talent and money to earn a license, she said.
More than a million are licensed throughout the state, theyve met educational requirements, done due diligence to get their licenses, and we have unlicensed people taking jobs away, in effect, from those who are properly licensed, Poreda said.
Homeowners may find a list of licensed contractors compiled by the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce; the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange; the Home Builders Association of Manatee County, or Manatee County Building and Development Services Department.
Consumers can also verify professional licenses through the states website at http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/.
To report unlicensed building activity, call the Manatee County Building Department 941-749-3047, e-mail complaints to ULA@dbpr.state.fl.us or call the states unlicensed activity hotline at 1-866-532-1440.
To learn more about Floridas building codes or to apply for a permit, visit the countys Internet website, http://www.mymanatee.org/home/government/departments/building-and-development-services.html. Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.