VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – The Volusia County Sheriff's Office arrested nine people this week in a sting targeting unlicensed contractors accused of trying to make a profit following Hurricane Irma, deputies said.
Deputies carried out "Operation Hurri-Con" -- the second undercover operation since Irma aimed at catching people taking advantage of residents who suffered damage from the storm -- Thursday and Friday.
Volusia County detectives, with the help of the State Attorney's Office, Daytona Beach police, and state insurance and fraud regulators, put together a list of unlicensed contractors in Deltona and Daytona Beach and set up times to meet with them.
After the detectives met with the suspects, who provided estimates for the costs of services they would provide, deputies conducted traffic stops and arrested the following men on charges of engaging in contracting business without certification and failing to secure workers' compensation insurance coverage:
- David Crabtree, 58, of Ormond Beach
- Bob Avila, 36, of Palm Bay
- Thomas Kaltenekker, 50, of Columbus, Ohio
- John Kirk, 43, of Port Orange (also charged with violation of felony probation for credit card fraud in an unrelated case)
- Shawn Ryerson, 45, of Daytona Beach
- Stanley Bentley, 50, of West Volusia
- Brian Dinker, 23, of West Volusia
- Charles Nunn, 57, of West Volusia
- James Shore Jr., 40,
Deputies said many of the suspects had advertised roofing, air conditioning or electrical service jobs on Craigslist. Contractors offering those services are required to be licensed, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The suspects are facing felony charges since the crimes were committed during the state of emergency Gov. Rick Scott declared for Hurricane Irma, deputies said.
Authorities said the suspects "knowingly and unlawfully" engaged in the illegal business practices.
“We want the message to be clear: If you’re in this business to help people, great. If you’re here because of greed, be assured, we will do this again and you will be found,” Lt. Brian Henderson said. “With some people, it’s very evident they are trying to capitalize on (damage from) the hurricane.”
Sheriff Mike Chitwood said detectives will continue to carry out similar operations if they need to in order to eliminate unlicensed contracting in the area.
“We’ve run this operation before, and we’ll do it again – the point is, if you want to do the kind of work that requires a permit, go through the process and do it legitimately," the sheriff said. "We’re not going to sit here and leave our residents vulnerable to scam artists and thieves out there looking to make an easy profit.”
The suspects were taken to Volusia County Jail. If found guilty, they could face up to five years in prison, deputies said.