Off-duty Polk deputy spots scam suspects accused of performing illegal, shoddy driveway work

July 11, 2017
Winter Haven, FL

By Kevin Bouffard

WINTER HAVEN — An off-duty Polk County Sheriff’s deputy says he caught two Davenport men red-handed — or perhaps black-handed — performing illegal driveway sealing at a Winter Haven house.

Larry Nicholas, 45, and and Lawrence Nicholas, 32, face felony charges of home solicitation without a permit and failure to secure workers’ compensation, according to a news release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office said the men’s ages are based on the dates on their Wisconsin driver licenses, and Larry told deputies that Lawrence is his son.

The Sheriff’s Office says it is continuing to investigate the men, and additional charges are possible. The statements gave the following account of their arrests:

Off-duty Sgt. Chris Katsoulis was driving through Winter Haven on Wednesday when he spotted two men performing possibly illegal driveway sealing at a home on Cypress Gardens Boulevard.

The Sheriff’s Office had received reports from homeowners of men offering to pour asphalt or sealant onto their driveways for cash. Once the work is done and the suspects leave, homeowners soon discover the work was shoddy, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Katsoulis reported his suspicions about the Nicholases to the sheriff’s Bureau of Special Investigations, and detectives arrived shortly thereafter.

The detectives observed both Nicholas men performing sealing work from their 2015 Chevrolet truck, which was pulling a homemade trailer with a 500-gallon tank of asphalt sealant.

The homeowners confirmed the men approached them offering to do the work for $1,300 cash. When the homeowners had second thoughts, they asked the men if they were licensed to do the work, and they said they were not.

Lawrence Nicholas also told detectives the duo had made the deal with the homeowners. He acknowledged they did not have a Florida solicitor’s license nor did they have a business license, tax certificate or workers’ compensation coverage.

The younger Nicholas also told detectives the pair had solicited and performed other construction work in Polk County, but he could not provide names and addresses.

Detectives arrested Lawrence Nicholas and found he was carrying $1,364 cash.

When detectives interviewed Larry Nicholas, he denied forcing the homeowners into the deal. But he also acknowledged his company, Nicholas Contracting, does not have an occupational or business license, nor workers’ compensation.

Detectives arrested Larry Nicholas on the two felony charges and notified the Division of Insurance Fraud at the Florida Department of Financial Services, which will conduct a further investigation.

Polk Sheriff Grady Judd asked other Polk homeowners with information about the Nicholas men’s activities to call his office at 863-298-6200 to help the investigation.

— Kevin Bouffard can be reached at [email protected] or at 863-401-6980.