Fraud scheme damages wetlands in Sumter County, deputies say

Up to $65,000 in damages done to protected wetlands, according to sheriff’s office

Jose Luis Carvajal Ibarra, 37 (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

THE VILLAGES, Fla. – A man attempting to rip off homeowners in The Villages faces charges after damaging protected wetlands, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies arrested Jose Luis Carvajal Ibarra, 37, on Wednesday.

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Investigators said the man traveled from the St. Cloud area to The Villages, targeting people living along Valleybrook Way on Lake Deaton.

Carvajal Ibarra told 14 people living in the area that he would clear the land behind their homes for $1,000, according to a news release. That land belongs to The Villages and is protected wetlands via a permit held by the South West Florida Water Management District, records show.

The man told the victims that he received permission from The Villages to clear the land, according to the release. Investigators said he ultimately cleared the land behind 11 of the 14 homes he had approached with his offer, taking about $10,000 from them in the process.

As the man cut down trees and cleared brush, a representative from The Villages told Carvajal Ibarra that the land was protected, records show. The man left but ended up coming back to continue the clearing.

Deputies said Carvajal Ibarra ended up causing between $40,000 and $60,000 in damage to the protected land.

He now faces charges of scheme to defraud, criminal mischief, trespassing and eight counts of home solicitation without a permit.

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.