Warnings issued on scams

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Traveling construction crews may skirt rules, regs

By Lou Elliott Jones

Levy County Commissioner Mike Joyner wants homeowners and business owners to be alert to repair and construction scams by fly-by-night work crews that could leave them in worse off than they started. 

Joyner said this is the time of year when out-of-state work crews move down from the north because they cannot work in the cold weather and they sell home and business owners on “a good deal” on driveway paving and roof jobs. 

He said residents should always ask contractors to show their state license and insurance paperwork – and to check with the state that it is current, and make sure they have the proper permits from the Levy County or municipal authorities to do the work. 

“I got a call about an elderly lady getting scammed,” he said at a recent commission meeting. 

“There's a band that brings six dump trucks and two no-good tractors and they come down here and they are like wolves on our elderly and shut-ins.”

He said the scam artists go up to residents and say they have been doing work in the area and they have enough leftover material to pave a driveway or paint a metal roof and they quote a low price and get the cash and do an inferior job. 

“They're taking tax money from us,” Joyner told the audience. “They're taking so much advantage of our elderly people. There has got to be an ordinance to help keep these people in line.”

He said some traveling crews use inferior products. “When they paint your roof the first good rain your driveway is (turning) silver.”

Commissioner Chad Johnson, noting that the state requires contractors be licensed and insured said,”You can go online and pull a license. But they prey on a specific citizen that is not savvy on the Internet, is not savvy to the law, and they know that.”

Sheriff Bobby McCallum said, It is a problem each and every year. It's a fine line between a civil issue and a criminal issue. They basically enter into a verbal contract with the homeowner that doesn't hold water.”

He said if the deputies feel its a scheme to defraud they wil investigate and turn the case over to the State Attorney's Office. “But usually by the time we do that they're gone and out of the county.”

Bill Hammond, county building official, said “Some of this we may be able to handle through building department. We can go through permitting. We are working two cases with roofers ? unlicensed roofers.”

Hammond said his office can obtain a stop work order and if they continue to keep working then we get  into court. “But if the homeowner has paid them up front there's nothing we can do with that,” 

Joyner said he wants word to get around that Levy County is not the place for fly-by-night work crews. He wants citations issued. “Once they get three or four citations for $500 a piece, word will spread,” Joyner said. “Once word gets out they are going to go around Levy County.”