Thursday, September 30, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Contracting Trouble
A warning tonight for those of you trying to save a buck. As you're about to see, you can never be sure who you're really hiring to do work around your house. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero with an exclusive, we call, contracting trouble.
WSVN -- These men showed up looking to do construction work, instead they ended up looking at the floor.
BSO: "Sheriff's office."
BSO: "You are under arrest, on the ground!"
BSO: "On your stomach, on your stomach. There you go."
Man: "Very surprised. I was shocked."
They were caught in a sting by investigators from the Broward Sheriff's Office and the State Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Using a house that needs work, investigators invited contractors in for estimates. Most were running ads on the internet and in newspapers. Undercover officers posed as homeowners.
Det. Danny Belyeu: "I'm Danny, good to see you."
The meetings were monitored and recorded.
Det. Danny Belyeu: "What we wanted to do was a utility room of sorts."
Det. Danny Belyeu: "What about any problems with permits, anything like that?"
The man then told the detective: "That's why we do it on Saturday, we knock it out." Contractors are required by law to pull permits for their work. An unlicensed contractor can't do that, so they often work weekends to avoid enforcement officers.
BSO: "Get down on the ground."
Arrested Man: "I'm not armed Jesus Christ!"
Det. Danny Belyeu: "They don't seem to understand that by virtue of the fact that they are showing up, negotiating work, that they are acting as a contractor."
Most had an explanation.
Man: "I'm like a handyman. I'm a handyman. I'm simply trying to work, and son it's hard."
But, hire an unlicensed contractor and you face the possibility of getting scammed or worse.
BSO: "On the ground, right now, do it!"
Past busts have turned up a lot of criminals.
Det. Danny Belyeu: "Over 50 percent are felons, with an extensive criminal past."
Cheryl Biesky, Department of Business and Professional Regulation: "Could be there for the purpose of construction, but could be there for another purpose."
And in this two day sting, 11 out of 22 had previous arrests for everything from armed robbery to attempted murder.
BSO: "Don't argue, just you're under arrest."
Det. Danny Belyeu: "We are in many cases inviting criminals into your house, and once in your house they have full access."
Carmel Cafiero: "If you need work done on your home it may be tempting to hire someone who offers to do it on the sly without permits, but more often than not, homeowners end up paying more. The work can be substandard "if" it gets done at all, because often they just take the money and run."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: