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Unlicensed Contractors "Nailed" in Operation Freeloader
Friday, August 15, 2014

Beginning on August 12th, 2014, members of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit conducted an operation targeting Unlicensed Contractors operating in Lee County. During the three day operation, fourteen (14) people were arrested for unlicensed contracting. Additionally, many of the individuals failed to have required workers’ compensation insurance or a required exemption and were additionally charged with a violation of workers’ compensation laws.

This operation involved agents and officers from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit, Public Services Division, and South District, along with Florida Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), and the Lee County Department of Community Development, Contractor Licensing and Code Enforcement Divisions. The operation utilized a single family dwelling located in the San Carlos Park area.

During this operation, undercover agents contacted a number of individuals from various internet websites such as Porch.Com and Craigslist, where the individuals were advertising construction related services. Arriving at the location in San Carlos Park, these individuals met with undercover officers and willingly agreed to offer proposals to perform various construction type tasks at the target residence. The work proposed requires the service provider to be a properly licensed contractor, and the contractor must carry workers’ compensation coverage, or they must have filed a certificate of exemption.

The following individuals lacked the required electrical, plumbing, and general contracting licensing needed to perform construction related activities and were arrested:

John A. Bradley (W/M, DOB: 10-23-1959) of 118 SW 4975 Terr., Cape Coral, FL 33914 - Unlicensed Contracting and Workers’ Comp Violation

Mark Diephouse (W/M, DOB: 05-05-1968) of 2329 King Lake Blvd., Naples, FL 33412 - Unlicensed Contracting and Workers’ Comp Violation

Joseph John Ganzel (W/M, DOB: 07-09-1985) of 901 NW 24th Place, Cape Coral, FL 33993 - Unlicensed Contracting and Workers’ Comp Violation

James Flynn Jr. (W/M, DOB: 03-10-1950) of 3849 Gary Rd., Bonita Springs, FL 34134 - Unlicensed Contracting and Workers’ Comp Violation

Andrea Jean Wittenborn (W/F, DOB: 01-10-1966) of 2474 Case Ln., North Fort Myers, FL 33917 - Unlicensed Contracting and Workers’ Comp Violation

Carl T. Wittenborn (W/M, DOB: 05-31-1965) of 2474 Case Ln., North Fort Myers, FL 33917 - Unlicensed Contracting and Workers’ Comp Violation

Luis Gabriel Guerra (W/M, DOB: 06-30-1961) of 9751 Chelford Ct., Naples, FL - Unlicensed Contracting

Robert James Wills (W/M, DOB: 04-20-1954) of 10706 Bahia Terrado Cir., Fort Myers, FL 33928 - Unlicensed Contracting

Juan F. Alban-Izquierdo (W/M, DOB: 10-09-1976) of 20622 Larino Loop, Estero, FL 33928 - Unlicensed Contracting

Dennis Edward Romstadt (W/M, DOB: 06-06-1945), no address available - Unlicensed Contracting

Richard Wasielewski (W/M, DOB: 02-21-1956) of 9694 Blue Stone Cir., Fort Myers, FL 33913 - Unlicensed Contracting and Workers’ Comp Violation

Alfredo Martinez-Cruz (W/M, DOB: 01-18-1978) of 6445 College Park Cir., Naples, FL 34113 - Unlicensed Contracting and Workers’ Comp Violation

Edward Michael Mason (W/M, DOB: 05-01-1973) of 1920 Index Ct., Lehigh Acres, FL 33972 - Unlicensed Contracting

Neil Leslie Cottrell (W/M, DOB: 05-22-1964) of 16873 Windcrest Dr., Fort Myers, FL 33908 - Unlicensed Contracting

The above individuals were also issued civil citations (with mandatory court dates) from Lee County Code Enforcement for unlicensed contracting and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation issued notices to "Cease and Desist”. 

Three additional individuals were issued Civil Citations from Code Enforcement along with notices to "Cease and Desist" and were released at the scene.     

As our Southwest Florida economy continues to improve so does the construction industry. Unfortunately, there are many unlicensed contractors who do not possess required licensing, often lacking in the training and experience necessary to perform “safe” work. In many cases, unlicensed contractors do not obtain the required permits in order to keep county officials from inspecting their work.

Consumers can 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 iTunes or the Google Play store.  Citizens are asked to report any suspected unlicensed activity by calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1 (866) 532-1440, or by calling the Lee County Sheriff's Office. 

This operation targeted violations of F.S.S. 489.127(1)(f) & F.S.S. 489.531(1)(a); Unlicensed Contractor, F.S.S. 440.105(4)(a)(3) & F.S.S. 440.10(1)(g); Workers' Compensation Fraud, and Lee County Ordinance 00-26.

Sheriff Mike Scott and the men and women of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, combined with our partner agencies, will continue to “nail down” unlicensed contractors. "These people are renegades," says Sheriff Mike Scott.  "Whether they're lowballing tree trimming jobs or just plain doing shoddy work, they give a bad name to all the licensed, legitimate contractors out there.  We will continue to do operations like this to 'weed out the bad apples.' "

Media inquiries will be directed to the Public Information Office at (239) 477-1340. Staff Officer Darryl Aubuchon will be available for interviews regarding the operation. 

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