Sheriff’s Operation Targets Unlicensed Contractors
By Brevard County Sheriff // January 16, 2015
FOUR ARRESTED IN MULTI AGENCY OPERATION
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Over the past two days, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Economics Crimes Unit partnered with the Board of County Commissioners Planning & Development, the Florida Workers’ Compensation Fraud Division and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to conduct a countywide investigation to identify and address unlicensed contractors.
Unlicensed activity occurs when an individual offers to perform or performs services that require a state license and the individual does not possess the required license.
Florida law establishes specific rules and guidelines for obtaining professional licenses, and those who have met these requirements are held to certain professional standards.
Unlicensed contractors have been reported taking deposits from unsuspecting victims and either not completing the work, or completing the work below standards. The objective of this operation was to identify and address unlicensed contractors operating in Brevard County.
As a result of the operation, a total of 28 unlicensed contractors were identified as advertising for work in Brevard County.
The subjects were identified through construction advertisements on social media sites, newspaper ads and other forms of media outlets.
Based on these searches, the subjects identified were checked for proper licensing to conduct work within Brevard County by the Board of County Commissioners Planning & Development and DBPR.
The Workers’ Compensation Fraud Division was included in this investigative process to verify if the suspects had the proper insurance to conduct work within the scope of the construction trade.
The operation was designed to seek compliance and educate both citizens and contractors as to the importance of licensing.
The subjects advertising work were contacted by agents and a meeting was arranged at a prescribed sting location.
The suspected unlicensed contractors arrived at the location and agreed to perform services that require a state license for which the individual does not hold the required licensing from Brevard County and the State of Florida.
During the operation, 11 unlicensed contractors were contacted and 8 of the subjects arrived at the arranged location.
Of those who responded, four were arrested and four are pending administrative sanctions and/or criminal charges, including:
• CYRUS RITTENHOUSE BRUSH, 61 years old of Titusville, charged with Unlicensed Contractor and Workers’ Compensation Fraud-Failure To Secure Coverage. Bond: $2,500.
• ALBERT ELLIS, 53 years old of Titusville, charged with Unlicensed Contractor, Workers’ Compensation Fraud-Failure to Secure Coverage. Bond: $2,500.
• MATTHEW C. BOSTWICK, 37 years old of Palm Bay, charged with Unlicensed Contractor, Workers’ Compensation Fraud-Failure To Secure Coverage.
• ERIC DALE SHANNON, 50 years old of Palm Bay, charged with Driving while License Suspended, Workers’ Compensation Fraud-Failure To Secure Coverage, and Workers’ Compensation Fraud-Present False Cert of Compliance. Bond $4,500.
The investigations that resulted in physical arrests consisted of repeat offenders operating unlicensed within Brevard County.
In 2014, The Board of County Commissioners Planning & Development received 441 complaints of suspected unlicensed contractors operating within Brevard County.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) received 440 complaints of suspected unlicensed electrical and construction contractors in the Orlando Region, which included Brevard County during 2014.
This cooperative and joint operation met and exceeded the desired outcome to gain compliance and increase awareness of unlicensed contracting being conducted in Brevard.
“I couldn’t be more proud of all the agencies involved as I witnessed them first hand working together to assure the safety and security of our citizens,” said Sheriff Wayne Ivey.
“This is yet another aspect of crime prevention for our Brevard County communities, as unlicensed contracting not only impacts victims financially, but creates unsafe conditions that may lead to injury and fire from substandard work. I applaud all involved for their efforts to protect the citizens of Brevard County.”
Unlicensed activity is against the law and can result in misdemeanor or felony charges if an individual is convicted.
Consumers are encouraged to verify professional licenses with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation online at www.myfloridalicense.com, by calling 850-487-1395 or by downloading the free DBPR Mobile app through the iTunes or Google Play app store.
Citizens are asked to report any suspected unlicensed activity by emailing ULA@myfloridalicense.com or calling the DBPR Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1-866-532-1440.