SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. -The owner of a Venice air conditioning company has been arrested after investigators say he had no contractor's license and hired unlicensed personnel.
55-year-old James Sohol, owner of Air Today in Venice, was arrested by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in connection with nearly a dozen cases of Unlicensed Contracting.
According to the sheriff's office, Sohol would obtain prospective customers by telemarketing, and when residents were in need of services, Sohol would schedule an inspection which would lead to the installation of new air conditioning units. Sohol does not have a state or local license and his company does not have a state certified qualifier, deeming all work illegal.
"When you have a pattern of conduct that is illegal and putting citizens at risk, we are going to make sure they are prosecuted," said Wendy Rose with the sheriff's office.
In four of the 11 current cases, Sohol listed the license of a New York man who has no affiliation with him or his company. All totaled, Sohol collected more than $55,926 from the current victims for illegal work.
Deputies arrested Sohol Wednesday morning at his home in Bradenton. He is charged with 11 counts of Unlicensed Contracting and is being held on $275,000 bond.
This isn't Sohol's first brush with the law. Last January, he was arrested and charged with five counts of Employing Unlicensed Telephone Solicitors in Manatee County. The day after his arrest, he posted a $9 thousand bond and was released.
"We have been under siege by unlicensed contractor activity in the last ten years," said Jaime DiDomenico, the owner of the air conditioning company, Cool Today. "Getting a license is a hurdle for many people, so they take the short cut and decide to do this without a license. They are risking the consumer's safety, if they are not hiring people properly and subcontracting work to move unlicensed people. There is a risk to the homeowner."
When hiring a contractor the Sarasota County Building Department recommends the following steps:
- Get a signed, detailed contract that spells out the work to be done, when, and for how much.
- Ask for local references and check them.
- Verify the company's reputation with organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce.
- Ask to see the contractor’s license and verify its status. To check a Sarasota County license call 861-6126.
- Do not make a large down payment and do not pay in full until the work is complete.
If you think someone is acting as an unlicensed contractor contact the Sarasota County Building Department, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, or visit https://www.scgov.net/DevelopmentServices/Pages/ContractorLicensing.aspx.