Unlicensed contracting scams a growing problem in Hernando County, say deputies
Nov 15, 2011
The following article was posted to the baynews9.com website on November 15, 2011:
Unlicensed contracting scams a growing problem in Hernando
By Ferdinand Zogbaum
The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office says unlicensed contractors scamming people out of money is a growing problem and they’re cracking down.
Three men have been arrested as part of a sting targeting unlicensed contractors.
Dr. Gaurav Malhotra says he was scammed out of $23,000 when he hired what he thought was a legitimate contractor to make a sign for his new clinic.
“I just laughed at myself. I said, oh how stupid can I be?” he said. “You get what you pay for and if it is too good to be true it usually is not true.”
According to reports, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office contacted several people who were advertising services as licensed contractors, even though officials had confirmed those people did not have licenses.
Investigators made calls to three of the suspects on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9, then asked them to do work that legally requires a contractor’s license. On Nov. 10, investigators said the suspects met with them to give an estimate on that work.
The suspects were arrested on charges of unlicensed contracting. They have been identified as Paul Kariotis, 58; Phillip V. Ortiz, 50; and Darrell Taylor, 55.
Officials said unlicensed contractors cause legitimate contractors to lose work by undercutting prices.
They also said consumers may be put at risk by going with unlicensed contractors because many times they will not obtain the proper permits, which could result in work that has not been inspected and may not be safe.
“Yeah, it has become a problem,” said Chris Glover, a licensed contractor who works for his family’s building company.
Glover says the people who aren’t legit are bidding lower on projects and stealing jobs.
“For all the people who are still following the rules it is very frustrating losing jobs and finding out later it wasn’t even an apple to apple comparison,” he said.
Investigators encourage consumers to get second estimates on all contractor-related repairs and construction, and to avoid getting those estimates from someone referred by the original contractor.
“I advise everyone else that you must do you due diligence before you proceed with anybody,” Malhotra said.
Consumers are also encouraged to ask for license copies, numbers and insurance, and to confirm whether a contractor is licensed in Florida by going to www.myfloridalicense.com.