Date: May 25, 2001 "For Immediate Release"
To: News Media
From: Sheriff Lawrence W. Crow, Jr.
Media Contact: Michal Shanley, 863 534-6631 or 819-0397 pager
Undercover Operation Cracks Down On Unlicensed Building Contractors

The Polk County Sheriff's Office Intelligence Unit concluded a long-term undercover investigation today with the charging of 13 building contractors 
for bidding on construction projects they are not licensed to perform.

The undercover operation was prompted by information provided by SALT 
(Seniors and Law Enforcement Together) and the Polk County Building Department about numerous contractors who had been operating without proper license. 

As part of the undercover operation, detectives posed as homeowners in need of various major repairs to their home located at 1563 28th Street NW Winter Haven (an unoccupied home donated by HUD for use in the investigation.) Repairs included major construction jobs such as electrical,
roofing and plumbing - all requiring appropriate licenses. Numerous contractors who had previously been cited or warned by the County Building Department for operating without the proper licenses were contacted for bids on the projects. After the bids were turned in, detectives determined which contractors were not appropriately licensed for the job, and those contractors have been charged. The contractors were invited back to the house this morning to receive "partial payment" for the job, and those who responded were arrested and will be booked into the Polk County Jail. Warrants will be issued for those who did not show today.

The following were charged with Contracting Without Being Duly Registered or Certified (M1):

Jerry Jackson, DOB 8/20/44, of 3101 Ave K NW in Winter Haven. 

Willie Carnley, DOB 5/20/59, of 1481 36th Street NW in Winter Haven.

Brian Southern, DOB 3/4/53, of 2333 Cheshire Place in Lakeland.

Forrest Leverette, DOB 9/21/35, of 175 5th Street SW in Winter Haven.

James Bryan, DOB 4/11/38, of 611 Winterset Gardens Drive in Winter Haven.

Richard McCorkle, DOB 5/7/38, of 129 Terrace Drive SE in Winter Haven.

James Ethridge, DOB 1/6/46, of 118 Brad Circle in Winter Haven.

Kenneth Secorsky, DOB 7/25/68, of 122 Lake Daisy Terrace in Winter Haven.

David Kennedy, DOB 5/3/64, of 2910 Ave I NW in Winter Haven.

Robert Douglas, DOB 6/16/55, of 3507 Reynolds Road in Lakeland.

Wayne Ashworth, DOB 2/25/50, of 44 Tower Manor Drive in Auburndale.

Frank Mistretta, DOB 2/6/42, of 122 Lake Daisy Terrace in Winter Haven.

Joseph Floyd, DOB 6/15/64, of 913 Schoolhouse Road in Lakeland.

(NOTE: All of the above were arrested this morning at the undercover house location except for Willie Carnley - a warrant will be issued for his arrest.) 

The undercover operation was a joint project with George Riddle and Russell Lively of the Polk County Building Department, Office of Contractor Licensing; and Hank Rivera and Peter Hernandez of Department of Business and Professional Regulations, Bureau of Investigative Services.

HOMEOWNERS CAUTIONED:

Using an unlicensed contractor can put homeowners at risk for possible frauds and scams. Homeowners are cautioned to always phone the Polk County Contractor Licensing Office at 534-6080 for contractor license verification. Also ask the licensing office if a building permit is needed for your home repairs. Homeowners also should call the Polk County Better Business Council at 853-5484 for a record of complaints against the company. Protect yourself!  When a contractor claims to be "licensed, bonded and insured," require proof! As common targets of scams, the elderly should be particularly cautious when contracting for home repairs. The PCSO Community Services Section offers many free education and safety awareness programs to the community, and can be reached at 534-0980. 

Distribution: Undersheriff, Division Commanders, Communications, News Media

A text only version of this release is also available.

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