DUNEDIN, Fla. (WFLA) — More than 20 unlicensed contractors were arrested in Pinellas County during an undercover sting called “Drop the Hammer.”
The operation took place over three days at an abandoned home in Dunedin. One by one, unlicensed contractors were busted, cuffed and locked up.
“I don’t think I ripped anyone off, I don’t know what that means,” one of the suspects said as he was being loaded into a transport van to be taken to jail.
Cameras were rolling when dozens of people offered to do unlicensed work for undercover detectives.
In the undercover video from detectives, you can hear unlicensed contractors say things like, “it’s on the side,” and, “we’re here, we can do it all, but we have to fly under the radar.”
“We saw people who didn’t have licenses they didn’t have permits, they weren’t going to do it the right way and all this under the table nonsense that they are very openly being willing to do,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
One of the suspects, Anthony Gianunzio, is accused of doing unlicensed work and stealing as much as $19,000 worth of jewelry from his client.
Deputies say he pawned the jewelry and his girlfriend helped him with the crimes.
“She works at Home Depot on US-19 and she, at Home Depot, is the one that customers come in, hook them up with licensed contractors to do work. Well she wasn’t hooking them up with licensed contractors, she was hooking them up with her boyfriend,” said Gualtieri.
“This problem of unlicensed contractors engaging in work inappropriately, quite frankly ripping people off, is a huge problem,” Gualtieri added. “It shows the ineffectiveness of enforcement over the last several years because this operation was too easy. It was like shooting fish in a barrel, in the last couple days. We did not begin this until Saturday morning, and we arrested 26 people on 57 charges.”
The sheriff said he will continue to crack down on unlicensed contractors.