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Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco briefing reporters on an undercover operation in the Port Richey area in mid-September that led to the subsequent arrest of 20 men on charges of contracting without a license and failure to have worker compensation insurance. With Nocco were, from left: Ramon Blanco, deputy Pasco County building official; County Commission Chairman Mike Wells; Lt. Jada Roberson of the Florida Division of Investigative and Forensic Services; and Don Rosenthal, assistant Pasco County administrator for development services.

NEW PORT RICHEY — When it comes to contracting for home repair services, let the buyer beware.

Or at least make sure the person offering the service is properly licensed and covered by worker compensation insurance.

That was the word Sept. 26 when Sheriff Chris Nocco announced the arrest of 20 men on charges resulting from a sting sheriff’s detectives ran in the Port Richey area Sept. 11-15 targeting unlawful and uninsured contracting.

Nocco started the briefing by answering anyone who might ask about the contract sting operation, “Why are you doing that?” The sheriff noted that one of the 20 men arrested in connection with the sting operation, Robert Bruce Trottman, 54, of Holiday was on felony probation for beating and raping a woman.

“Would you say, ‘Oh yeah, I want this person to work on my house’ ”? Nocco asked.

As part of the undercover operation, Trottman was arrested on three counts of contracting without a license, all misdemeanors, and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance, a felony, according to an arrest affidavit.

In the investigation, detectives posing as a homeowner and a friend met with contractors at the Port Richey-area residence who offered to perform services such as installing a water heater, lighting, doors or air conditioning, all requiring a state contractor’s license. None of the 20 contractors were licensed, according to the arrest records.

In addition, detectives from the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Bureau of Insurance Fraud found that none of the 20 had worker compensation insurance.

Often, according to Detective Shawn Rozankowski of the Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit, who was involved in the undercover operations, unlicensed contractors take “thousands of dollars” from people and then never perform the work they have agreed to do.

“They’re stealing from you,” Rozankowski said.

A contractor asking for a large percentage of the payment for work up front could be a sign of trouble, Rozankowski said. Never pay more than 10 percent down, the maximum allowed under state law, he said.

In addition, people who hire unlicensed contractors could be financially liable if a contractor without worker compensation is injured while performing unlicensed work, Rozankowski said. “God forbid they fall off the roof.”

During the news briefing, County Commission Chairman Mike Wells says county government has been working with the Sheriff’s Office to stop unlicensed and uninsured contracting. The practice not only puts Pasco consumers of contracting services at risk, it puts contractors who are operating legally at a competitive disadvantage, Wells said. “And I’m not O.K. with that.”

Don Rosenthal, assistant county administrator for development services, said the county had begun its “proactive partnership” with the Sheriff’s Office for one reason, “To protect our citizens from unlicensed contractors.”

Rosenthal added, “We’ll be aggressive in our continuing operations to identify and prosecute unlicensed contractors.”

People with questions about whether a contractor is licensed or want to anonymously report an unlicensed contractor can call the county at 727-847-2411 or via the My Pasco phone app, Rosenthal said.

In addition to Trottman, the contractors arrested as part of the undercover operation were, according to affidavits:

● Richard Frank Bruns Jr., Hudson, two counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Harold C. Attebery II, no city listed, two counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Gary Allen Nickell Jr., New Port Richey, two counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Kenneth Ray Rogers, New Port Richey, two counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Frederick John Kloster, Land O’ Lakes, two counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Raul Guidicelli, Dade City, two counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Kevin Christopher Burtis, Spring Hill, two counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Dennis Disney Garlock, New Port Richey, three counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Michael Anthony Anderson, Palm Harbor, three counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Charbel Tannous, New Port Richey, two counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Daniel George Griffith, New Port Richey, three counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Mohsen H. Seoud, New Port Richey, two counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Luis Alberto Medina, Spring Hill, two counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Mauricio Antonio Chicas, Land O’ Lakes, three counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● James Robert Wood II, Land O’ Lakes, one count of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Richard Daniel Martin, Holiday, three counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Joseph Martin, Holiday, three counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Neil T. Myer, no city listed, two counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.

● Ronald Lee Watson Sr., Spring Hill, three counts of contracting without a license and one count of failure to secure worker compensation insurance.