Operation Wrong Number targets unlicensed contractors

Arrests made in Volusia, Flagler counties

An undercover operation that started with an alleged conman calling a sheriff's wife has led to several arrests in Volusia and Flagler counties.

Operation Wrong Number targeted unlicensed contractors who were trying to do construction work in the area without licenses or insurance.

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said his wife received a call from a man who asked if she needed roof repairs after Hurricane Matthew struck. That man hung up when his would-be victim asked if he had the necessary license.

"The operation was called Operation Wrong Number because he managed to call the sheriff's house while he was trying to do contracting work, which by the way, I didn't need. I had no damage in the house," Staly said.

Staly and Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood hosted a news conference Friday afternoon to update the public on the results of the undercover operation. They said five people were arrested as a result of deputies' efforts.

Investigators from the departments scheduled appointments with contractors who advertised services that would have required licenses. After getting a quote to repair damage at a house on Claridge Court in Palm Coast last week, investigators arrested the suspects on Wednesday, according to a news release.

Chitwood said people who execute this type of con are usually "good swindlers" and "parasites" who appear to be professionals and often prey on the elderly.

"The message should get out there that if you are doing this type of activity, there is a chance you are going to be in handcuffs and there is a chance you are going to have to get an attorney and there is a chance you are going to be on the news tonight," Chitwood said.

Deputies provided the names of five people who were arrested in Flagler County. Arrests in the operation are ongoing and deputies said that charging affidavits have been filed for five more people. Five people were also arrested in Volusia County, officials said during the news conference.

The people who have been arrested at this point in Flagler County are:

Jay Philip Estes, 55
Charge: Construction without a license

Cynthia Ann Haggerty, 45
Charge: Construction without a license and electrical without a license

Jonas Russell Rich, 35
Charge: Construction without a license

Thomas J. Smith, 43
Charges: Construction without a license and electrical without a license

Desiderio Carlos Carreiro, 38
Charges: Construction without a license and electrical without a license

The people who have been arrested at this point in Volusia County are:

Robert Pagliuso, 62, from Sergeants Plumbing and Drain
Charges: Engaging in contracting business without certification, practicing electrical contracting without certification and failure to secure workers’ compensation coverage

David Smith, 72, from Space Drain Cleaning Repair and Maintenance
Charges: Engaging in contracting business without certification, failure to secure workers’ compensation coverage

Derek Baxter, 43, from Way Cool Handyman
Charge: Engaging in contracting business without certification

Timothy J. Wolfe, 31, from Knock It Out LLC
Charges: Engaging in contracting business without certification, failure to secure workers’ compensation coverage and possession of drug paraphernalia

Wolfe’s girlfriend, Michelle Varnadoe, 36, was also arrested on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said detectives arrested three more unlicensed contractors following Friday's news conference, bringing the total number of people in VCSO's operation to 10, including three ancillary arrests. Those also arrested are:

Andre Daniels, 47, Deltona
Charge: Engaging in contracting business without certification

Kyle Chace, 30, Deltona
Charges: Engaging in contracting business without certification, possession of a Schedule II narcotic, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving while license suspended or revoked

Samuel Lemire, 31, Orlando
Charges: Failure to secure workers’ compensation coverage and falsely identifying self as a licensed contractor

Travis Schmidt, 29, who was also arrested, was charged with possession of alprazolam (Xanax). Issued a notice to appear was Rickey Heath, 31, who faces a charge of possession of marijuana.

Estes was the subject of a News 6 investigation in February 2016 after a customer said she gave him $7,000 to remodel her bathroom and he never did any of the work.

The News 6 investigation found that Estes has been sued by several former customers. Since 2008, at least seven people have filed lawsuits against the contractor, most claiming he refused to refund their deposits after failing to start or complete work, court records show.

Deputies recommend checking the state's Department of Business and Professional Regulation website to see if a contractor is licensed at www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr.

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