Multi-Agency Sting Leads to 11 Arrests in Manatee County
Contact: Ashley Carr
(850) 413- 2842
Palmetto, Fla. — The Department of Financial Services’ Division of Investigative and Forensic Services (DIFS) today announced 11 arrests following a multi-agency undercover workers’ compensation and unlicensed contracting sting in Manatee County. The individuals arrested were found to have advertised their ability to perform jobs such as plumbing and electrical work without the proper licensing or training, and without having workers’ compensation coverage to protect their employees in the event of an accident or injury.
“When contractors knowingly neglect the law, a major liability risk is created for property owners,” said CFO Jeff Atwater. “Not only are homeowners liable for any injuries that occur to uncovered workers on their property, but sub-par work performed by unlicensed and untrained contractors also creates a direct hazard for the property. This is a practice we, along with our local and state law enforcement partners, are working diligently to stop.”
During the three-day operation, DIFS detectives, accompanied by logistical and tactical support from multiple agencies, established an undercover sting across Manatee County in an effort to stop this illegal practice. Detectives responded to public advertisements, calling for contractors to perform services at a specified location in Manatee County.
Those who were arrested include:
• Johnny Lewis Harrison
• Douglas Dan Wilson
• Moises Gonzalez
• Shawn Gandy
• Joseph Alma
• Kenneth Ellis Lohmann
• James S. Civitello, Jr.
• Donald Earl Beck
• Shawn Anthony Ervin
• Trang Thanh Tran
• Tommy Minhtri Nguyen
“Unlicensed activity threatens the livelihood of honest, hardworking professionals and can result in substantial physical or financial burdens to Florida consumers,” said DBPR Secretary Ken Lawson. “DBPR strives to ensure Florida consumers receive services from people and businesses that are in compliance with the law and meet the qualifications and standards required to obtain their state-issued license. Consumers can empower themselves by becoming familiar with what services require a license from DBPR and by always verifying a license before hiring a professional.”
Multiple agencies played a vital role in securing the sting’s successful outcome. These agencies include: The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Palmetto Police Department, DFS’ Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Compliance, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Manatee County State Attorney’s Office and Manatee County Code Enforcement.
The 11 individuals arrested were booked into Manatee County Jail on charges of workers’ compensation fraud and unlicensed contracting, and if convicted, they can face up to 5 years in prison, more if found to be a repeat offender. These cases will be prosecuted by the Office of Manatee County State Attorney Ed Brodsky.
# # #
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) and Twitter (@FLDFS)
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation licenses and regulates contractors to provide various construction and electrical services in the state of Florida. Consumers can verify professional licenses with DBPR online at www.myfloridalicense.com, by calling (850) 487-1395 or by downloading the free DBPR Mobile app through iTunes or the Google Play app store. Unlicensed activity is against the law. Floridians should report any suspected unlicensed activity by emailing ULA@myfloridalicense.com, calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1-866-532-1440 or using the DBPR Mobile app.