BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Since Hurricane Michael, hundreds of families have been working to rebuild their homes and lives.
For some, the process became even harder after being a victim to an unlicensed contractor.
News 13 spoke with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday to get an update on how many arrests the agency has made for this charge.
To date, BCSO deputies say they have arrested 175 contractors with 88 additional outstanding warrants currently filed.
Corporal Dennis Rozier says there are about five charges they can file against these individuals trying to make a quick buck off of Hurricane Michael victims.
“Unlicensed contracting is obviously one of the most prevalent. It’s one of the first ones we started dealing with but we also have some statues where contractors have specific timeline of how long they have to pull permits, how long they have to begin work, how long they can go without doing any work and there are statues we can charge under for that,” Rozier said.
Even though 175 arrests may seem like a lot, Rozier says that’s not even all of them.
“One of the charges is grand theft and that’s broken down in different sections. The 175 number is the ones between 20 and 100 thousand dollars in loss. We do have a number of cases where they’re between about 5 and 20 thousand. Those were almost impossible to pull out without going through every single case, one by one that’s in the jail because those are lumped in with someone that steals a car or cashes a check for 10 grand or stuff like that.”
He encourages all who are still needing to find someone to hire to do a thorough background check.
“Make sure that he is licensed. Do things like go to the better business bureau and see if he’s got complaints against him. You can check with the department of business and professional regulation, they can let you know if they have active cases against this guy. If they have other complaints from people. Just be smart and vet them and make sure they’ve got a good reputable guy. Don’t let them come in with high pressure, used car sales tactics and force you to do something.”
Around the panhandle, other agencies are also working on similar cases.
In Gulf County, the sheriff’s office has 8 arrests. Holmes County has one.
The city of Lynn Haven has 86 cases they are working. Springfield officials say they have at least 22 cases.
The State Attorney’s Office in the 14th Judicial Circuit currently has 186 current construction fraud cases open.