The two unrelated operations took place in Pinellas County and Manatee County. The ten arrests in Pinellas County are part of an ongoing operation named “Operation Stonewall,” which was designed to root out individuals working as contractors without a license or workers’ compensation insurance. For this operation, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the state’s Department of Financial Services. The nine arrests in Manatee County, meanwhile, were the result of a collaboration between the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Manatee County Code Enforcement, and the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).
Both were sting operations similar to other operations which have taken place recently in the state. Investigators will advertise for remodeling on a house and will investigate the credentials of contractors when they show up. For example, in May in Sarasota County, just south of Manatee County, 17 contractors were arrested during “Operation Hammer Down II.”
During that operation, investigators pretended to be owners of a mid-century ranch-style house that needed remodeling. The investigators reached out to local contractors who had recently completed projects which required a license to complete. While the contractors were inside the house talking to an agent about remodeling work, other agents checked the DBPR’s database to see if the contractor carried workers’ compensation insurance, that they were correctly registered as a contractor, and that they were licensed. Those who were not were arrested.
The Pinellas County operation ran from June 1-3. Each of the ten people arrested was charged with failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance coverage and contracting without a license. The ten individuals are Alberto Chanelo, Richard Thomas Ouellete, Marcello McIntosh, Nicholas Guiseppe D’Alessandro, Dennis Disney Garlock, Kris Douglas Kelley, Jason Robert Gamache, Sidney Lisojo, Kerrigan Leo Cowles, and Randy Allen Jeziorski. They each face sentences of up to five years in prison if they are convicted.
“Taking advantage of vulnerable Floridians is despicable, and those who do so will be caught and held accountable,” said Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. “I applaud the great teamwork between my fraud detectives and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office on this successful sting operation.”
The operation in Manatee County ran from June 18-19 and is the result of multiple reports received by law enforcement that unlicensed contractors were operating in the area. The individuals arrested range in ages from 24 to 59. The following seven individuals have been charged with failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance coverage and contracting without a license: Fredrick Moscato Sr., Victor Calzada-Tinajero, Felix Lopez, Hugo Hernandez-Ramirez, Thomas Melville, Darrell Brewer, and Michael Tucci. Victor Calzada-Morales and Joseph Grieco Jr. were each arrested on the single charge of contracting without a license.
“As we’ve seen in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Michael, unlicensed activity puts homeowners at risk for fraud, and contractors working without workers’ compensation coverage can leave employees and property owners vulnerable,” explained Patronis. “My fraud detectives have made nearly 600 arrests for working without workers’ compensation insurance coverage since I’ve been in office.”
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