Unlicensed contractors? Not on my watch, Flagler County sheriff says

Operation Wrong Number culminates in 5 arrests

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – When Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly’s wife answered a phone call shortly after Hurricane Matthew, and the voice on the line asked if the couple needed any roof repairs, she asked if the company were licensed and insured.

The caller didn’t answer the question and the phone line disconnected.

This happened soon after Sheriff Staly was sworn in, and he took swift action, directing the Investigative Services Division to conduct an operation to identify and arrest people contracting without a license, the Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

The phone call largely led to Operation Wrong Number, to let unlicensed contractors know they are not welcome in Flagler County.

After a three-day undercover operation, unlicensed contractors were placed on notice to stay out of the county, officials said.

The operation was coordinated with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the city of Palm Coast.

Here’s how it worked: Investigators made phone calls to people advertising services that would have required a Florida contractor’s license.

Investigators then scheduled appointments with these unlicensed workers to get an estimate for a job at a home on Claridge Court, in Palm Coast. After initial visits with the unlicensed contractors last week, authorities on Wednesday arrested five people, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The suspects include Jay Philip Estes, 55, of Palm Coast, charged with construction without a license; Cynthia Ann Haggerty, 45, of Daytona Beach, charged with construction without a license and electrical without a license; Jonas Russell Rich, 35, of Palatka, charged with construction without a license; Thomas Smith, 43, of Port Orange, charged with construction without a license and electrical without a license; and Desiderio Carlos Carreiro, 38, of Palm Coast, charged with construction without a license and electrical without a license. He was given a notice to appear, officials said.

These five were held at the Flagler County Detention Facility but have since been released.

“There is a reason that contractor licenses are required when performing these types of services,” Staly said. “Not only does it ensure that the work is meeting safety standards required by building codes, but it protects the homeowner from shady service or the possibility of getting ripped off. Homeowners need to be aware of the risk they take when they hire someone who is not licensed or insured.”

Charging affidavits were completed on five more people for construction without a license and/or electrical work without a license. These will be submitted to the State Attorney’s Office.

If anyone has questions about whether a contractor is licensed or whether they need building permits before doing work on their home or business, you’re encouraged to call the city of Palm Coast’s Building Department at 386-986-3780. Or you can access the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation website to see if a contractor is licensed. This should be done before any payments are made.

Unlicensed activity is illegal and can result in misdemeanor or felony charges if an individual is convicted. People may report any suspected unlicensed activity by emailing ULA@myfloridalicense.com or calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 866-532-1440.

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office ran a simultaneous undercover operation, authorities said.

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