A three-month investigation into unlicensed contractors after Hurricane Irma resulted in five arrests in the Tampa Bay area with another 73 workers identified.
Miami-Dade County roofing companies and Broward County roofers were not along those charged in the investigation surrounding the Tampa Bay area.
The investigation called Operation Rebuild and Operation Swift Wind arrested and charged workers with a number of crimes including construction fraud, contracting without a license, contracting without a license during a state of emergency, Workman’s Compensation Fraud, and others, according to NBC Tampa Bay.
Florida officials eased a number of building regulations to help smooth recovery from Hurricane Irma but unfortunately, some tried to take advantage of the devastating natural disaster that has caused millions of dollars in damages across Florida.
The governor’s emergency order allowed licensed contractors to perform roofing work and waives Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation fees for some businesses that relocate because of Irma damage.
Operation Rebuild and Operation Swift Wind was part of a Homeland Security Division Construction Fraud Unit initiative. Their investigation possible construction fraud into those practices began in June.
The arrests were made thanks in part to an undercover operation in which officials posed as customers who wanted construction work done in the Tampa Bay area. According to a press release of the investigation, detectives gathered information from multiple Internet sources regularly used by for “handy man” services. These sources included: Angie’s List, Home Adviser, Facebook, Craig’s List, and various citizen complaints. Detectives received written quotes from the 73 subjects named in the investigation totaling $1,946,882.40.
According to CoreLogic, via the Miami Herald, flooding from Hurricane Irma has caused the costliest damage to homes and businesses in the storm’s path across the Caribbean and into Florida, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The total insured and uninsured loss for both residential and commercial properties is estimated to be between $42.5 billion and $65 billion.
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