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27 unlicensed contractors arrested in undercover sting operation

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says one man even showed up to the job with cocaine in his shoe.

SUN CITY CENTER, Fla. — A 10-day sting led to the arrest of more than two dozen unlicensed contractors. 

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said undercover deputies posed as homeowners and met with people who advertised home improvement services online. The sheriff's office said this led to the arrests of 27 unlicensed contractors.

The undercover operation took place in Sun City Center from Sept. 21 to Oct. 2. 

The unlicensed contractors offered to replace or remodel bathrooms, doors, windows, and in a few cases, said they could pour concrete pads and sidewalks around the property, according to the sheriff's office. 

"When you hire a contractor, you expect professionalism and complete accountability. By hiring someone who does not have the proper credentials, you don't know who you're allowing into your home or the damage they could potentially cause to your property," said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "During the ongoing pandemic, many people are in the house more often and looking for ways to fix up their homes. We urge homeowners to do their research before committing to an expensive service that requires professional training and experience."

Out of the 27 people arrested, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said there was a high-risk sexual offender on felony probation and a man who showed up to work with cocaine.

Keith Andrew Hall, 49, offered to remodel a walk-in shower for $1,600, deputies said. Then, they discovered Hall was on GPS-monitored felony on GPS-monitored felony probation after being convicted of lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim 12 to 15 years of age, lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim less than 16 years of age, and promoting the sexual performance of a child. 

Another man, Tony Stephens, 48, is accused of bringing cocaine to the job. Deputies said Stephens offered to install aluminum gutters for $850. Then, when they searched him, they found cocaine inside his shoe. 

Anyone who believes they have been scammed by an unlicensed contractor is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's Homeland Security Division (813) 247-8622. 

People looking to hire a contractor can keep themselves safe from unlicensed contractors by checking a list the Better Business Bureau offers.

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