Eight Accused of Unlicensed Contracting in Hillsborough Stings
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office targeted unlicensed contractors in an extended undercover sting called “Operation Rebuild” and a second undercover operation targeting unlicensed contractors conducting business during the state of emergency declared because of Hurricane Irma. The department filed 73 total criminal cases arising from “Operation Rebuild.”
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY – Eight people are facing charges of unlicensed contracting after two sting operations conducted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office fraud unit.
Alvaro Rojas, 28, of Tampa; Richard Hanke, 57, of Brandon; Dennis Hollingsworth, 22, of Gibsonton; Gino Michaels, 27, of Zephyrhills; and Angelo Thomas, 21, of Zephyrhills, were each charged with one count of contracting without a license during a state of emergency.
Heath McCarthy, 41, of Riverview, was charged with one count each of contracting without a license subsequent offense and workman’s compensation fraud.
Anna E. Johnson, 37, of Brandon, was charged with one count of unlicensed contracting in Hillsborough and warrants for petit theft, workman’s compensation, grand theft, contracting without a license and other charges.
Joseph Zink, 58, of Wesley Chapel, was charged with one count of contracting without a license and violation of his parole on a kidnapping charge.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office created the construction fraud unit in January 2013 through a collaborative effort with the Hillsborough County Building Department. Since then, the unit which consists of two detectives who investigate an average of 100 cases a year, has conducted several sting operations. Between June and August, the unit’s detectives initiated “Operation Rebuild” to identify unlicensed contractors by employing an extended covert investigation. The sheriff’s office partnered with the State Attorney’s Office, Florida Department of Business and
Professional Regulation, Florida Department of Financial Services, and the Hillsborough County Building Department during the operation, which was conducted throughout Hillsborough.
Deputies said they gathered information from multiple open sources regularly used by homeowners to contact contractors and “handyman” services. These sources included Angie’s List, Home Adviser, Facebook, Craig’s List, and various citizen complaints.
Unit detectives located and contacted 310 potential unlicensed contractors gathered from all the listed sources. Of the 310 subjects contacted, 114 returned calls for quotes and met with the detectives. Of those, 73 criminal cases were filed for fraud and unlicensed contracting.
Unit detectives received written quotes from the 73 subjects totaling about $1.95 million. Historically, the workmanship of unlicensed contractors would be so poor that it would have to be repaired. Repair work is generally more expensive that it would have been had it been done by a licensed contractor, officials said. They estimated the economic impact to Hillsborough County homeowners and legitimate contractors to be more than $4 million.
Unit detectives also initiated “Operation Swift Wind,” which targeted unlicensed contractors conducting business during the state of emergency declared Sept. 4 as Hurricane Irma bore down on the state. In an abbreviated operation lasting for three days in late October, unit detectives contacted 10 potential unlicensed contractors, resulting in five arrests for felony charges.
For a video from the Hillsborough sheriff showing some arrests, go to youtube.com.
For information about the Hillsborough sheriff, go to hcso.tampa.fl.us.
Main photo shows the arrest of Richard Hanke, 57, of Brandon. Photo taken from youtube video courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Hillsborough Sheriff | Crime | Unlicensed Contractors | Arrests | Tampabay News
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