CAPE CORAL, Fla. - Some contractors found guilty of doing work without licenses say they don't care! In fact, they're going to continue to do business until they're caught again.
Our WINK News Call for Action team took you inside a sting operation a few months ago. It involved an elaborate set-up of hidden cameras and undercover officers.
Even though a judge slapped fines and a guilty verdict on those caught, some said it didn't matter. The sting operation netted 23 people who quoted for work they were not licensed to do, which makes it illegal.
WINK News took you inside the unlicensed contractor sting operation October.
Absolute Law attorney Michael Chionopoulos, representing Choice Maintenance, pleaded "no contest" for his client Wednesday.
"I think there's some gray area in the statute. In terms of what can be provided without a license, what you have to have a license to provide. There was no intent to exceed the limits," he told WINK News, in his client's defense.
Either way, his client will still have to pay the $500 fine for working without a state license.
Others like Joseph Marola and Omar Alvarez both told the judge they were "not guilty." In both cases, the judge disagreed, despite some protests.
Alvarez told WINK News despite the verdict, he won't stop working, and even stuck his tongue out at one of the investigators.
"Will you continue to do work?" asked WINK News reporter Rachael Rafanelli. "I have a license," he replied. "Under your business tax receipt," said Rafanelli. Cape Coral investigators and the Lee County judge say a business tax receipt is not the same thing as a state license, which requires hours of testing.
Licensing investigator Paul Gates says that conduct is not surprising. "We've actually had some (unlicensed contractors) tell me while I'm writing the citation, 'oh.. 500 dollars? It's the cost of doing business'."
He warns the work of unlicensed contractors only put you, as the homeowner, at risk. And if something goes wrong, your insurance will not cover it. "Electrical work, you can get killed. If it's not done correctly. Not done to code. Done without permits, you can get killed," Gates said.
The second time an unlicensed contractor is caught, their misdemeanor becomes a felony.
The best way to protect yourself is to double check your potential contractor has the appropriate license.
To find out if someone you want to hire is licensed, call your local municipality or go online to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation's website. Click on "verify a license."