The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrested more than two dozen unlicensed contractors throughout a 10-day sting. The undercover operation was conducted in Sun City Center, an area where many elderly residents often fall victim to cons and scams, including construction fraud. Among the 27 people arrested, was a high-risk sexual offender on felony probation and a man who showed up to work with cocaine in his possession.
From Monday, September 21, 2020 to Friday, October 2, 2020, undercover deputies posing as homeowners met at an undisclosed location with unlicensed contractors who had placed online advertisements for home improvement services. Arrests took place after a verbal or written estimate was provided. The unlicensed contractors offered to replace or remodel bathrooms, doors, windows, and in a few cases, said they could pour concrete pads and sidewalks around the property. Quotes for these projects ranged anywhere from $320 up to $13,000.
In one case, the unlicensed contractor was also a high-risk sex offender. Keith Andrew Hall, 49, of Handy Home Man, offered to remodel a walk-in shower for $1,600. Deputies discovered he was currently on GPS-monitored felony probation, after being convicted of Lewd and Lascivious Molestation on a Victim 12 to 15 Years of Age, Lewd and Lascivious Molestation on a Victim Less Than 16 Years of Age, and Promoting the Sexual Performance of a Child. In another case, the unlicensed contractor was carrying cocaine. After Tony Stephens, 48, was taken into custody for offering to install aluminum gutters for $850, deputies searched him and found the drug inside his shoe.
“When you hire a contractor, you expect professionalism and complete accountability. By hiring someone who does not have the proper credentials, you don’t know who you’re allowing into your home or the damage they could potentially cause to your property,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “During the ongoing pandemic, many people are in the house more often and looking for ways to fix up their homes. We urge homeowners to do their research before committing to an expensive service that requires professional training and experience.”
Below are the booking videos of suspects Keith Hall and Tony Stephens. In addition, Sheriff Chad Chronister reacts to the operation results.
Anyone who believes they are a victim of contractor fraud is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office’s Homeland Security Division (813) 247-8622.