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Accused of Lacking WC Coverage and a Valid State Contractor's License

By Christina Bramlet, PropertyCasualty360.com

With the proliferation of contractor fraud, various states have enacted legislation to protect consumers. The issue is unfortunately thrust into the limelight following a natural catastrophe, as policyholders suffering property losses are especially vulnerable to predatory practices.

The workers employed at these fly-by-night businesses often require protection as well, particularly when contractors fail to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. Florida is one of many states to crack down on employers that put both consumers and employees in harm’s way.

As part of routine efforts to combat unlicensed activity throughout the state, investigators with the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) Division of Insurance Fraud and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) routinely monitor Internet sites, such as Craigslist and Angie’s List.

Going Undercover

Upon learning that several businesses within Manatee County, Florida failed to hold adequate workers’ comp coverage, DFS recently began an investigation in partnership with DBPR and local law enforcement. They were able to conclude that the same individuals were operating without being adequately licensed and established a two-day undercover operation, whereby law enforcement agents arranged a meeting with the alleged unlicensed workers at a local home to obtain an estimate for construction work.

Once a quote was secured, the police took action. A total of nine men were taken into custody and have been charged with workers’ comp fraud and providing services without a contractor’s license. The office of Florida CFO Jeff Atwater identified the men as: Clifford Hatina; Michael John Kantor; Scott Rodocker; Allen R. Authur; Walter L. Powe; Christopher Myrick; David Perez; Adam Mark Levine; and Paul Scott Eard.

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater said he applauded the collaborative effort while pointing out that failure to obtain proper coverage demonstrates a "blatant disregard for worker safey."

So what is unlicensed activity? It occurs when an individual offers to perform or performs services that require a state license and the individual does not hold the required license. Florida law sets specific rules and guidelines for obtaining professional licensure, and the people who have met these requirements are held to professional standards. If convicted, they face up to five years prison time for each workers’ compensation charge, and an additional one year for a first time unlicensed contractor charge; five years if a repeat offender.

“Unlicensed activity is against the law and threatens the livelihood of licensed professionals who have demonstrated knowledge of the profession and have met all of the requirements prescribed by law to possess a state of Florida license,” says DBPR Secretary Ken Lawson. “Consumers should be aware of the various risks associated with doing business with unlicensed individuals and should always verify an individual’s license through DBPR prior to hiring them.”

Consumers can verify professional licenses online at www.myfloridalicense.com and are encouraged to report any suspected unlicensed activity by emailing ULA@myfloridalicense.com or calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1-866-532-1440. 
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