TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Joe Mendoza, a Thonotosassa man put out of business after spraying for termites without a license for years, also falsified reports on infestations, according to new information released by the Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Mendoza, 65, had been fined $19,000 for working without a license, but had never paid those fines while continuing to work. One of his customers, veteran Jonah Huggins, home was infested with termites that Mendoza had said were not there. After moving into his home, Huggins found this was not the case and brought the issue to 8 On Your Side in October.
Last week, Mendoza was charged with three felonies involving fraud over $50,000 and forgery, and three misdemeanors for unlawful advertisement for pest control services. He was in custody at the Hillsborough County Jail on a nearly $20,000 bond.
Previous reporting by 8 On Your Side investigator Walt Buteau found that FDACS agents had been looking for Mendoza “for quite a while,” at least according to customer Noah Garcia. Mendoza had treated Garcia’s mother’s home for termites in 2018, but the infestation continued.
“After a couple days termites just swarmed from everywhere,” Huggins previously told 8 On Your Side.
Reports also stated that Mendoza had signed off on a Wood Destroying Organism report for a home on Osborne Street in Tampa, the one belonging to Huggins, saying that there were no visible signs of bugs.
The FDACS said they had received reports of Mendoza’s actions in a referral on June 23, and that Mendoza had signed multiple fictitious reports. 8 On Your Side’s investigation into the infestation and spraying at Huggins’ home on Osborne Street is likely one of those reports.
Now, FDACS has released a statement following Mendoza’s arrest, detailing some of the “fraud scheme” and how he made his work “appear legitimate.”
After thorough investigation, OALE criminal investigators determined that Mendoza used fraudulent business license numbers and expired identification card numbers to make his fraud scheme appear legitimate. When confronted with the investigative findings, Mendoza admitted to having no Pest Control License and no insurance surety bond and intentionally performing unlicensed pest control activities. Mendoza also admitted to producing fraudulent WDO inspection reports.
On October 14, 2021, OALE criminal investigators secured a warrant for Mendoza’s arrest. OALE located and arrested Mendoza without incident and booked him into the Hillsborough County Jail on the following charges:
-Violation of Section 817.034(4)(A)1, Florida Statutes, Scheme to Defraud (over $50,000.00), First-Degree Felony, 1 count.
-Violation of Section 831.01, Florida Statutes, Forgery, Third-Degree Felony, 2 counts.
-Violation of Section 831.02, Florida Statutes, Uttering, Third-Degree Felony, 2 counts.
-Violation of Section 482.191(1), Florida Statutes, Unlawful Performance or Advertisement for Pest Control Services, Second-Degree Misdemeanor, 3 counts.
Mendoza’s bond was set at $19,750, and the date of Mendoza’s court appearance will be set by the Hillsborough County Court.Statement released by FDACS