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Agriculture commissioner targets unscrupulous landscaper in The Villages

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Kenneth Wayne Smith

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has teamed up with native regulation enforcement and different companies ensuing in the arrest of a landscaping/pest management gross sales consultant with an extended historical past of unscrupulous exercise in The Villages.

Acting on info obtained throughout an investigation, Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement investigators obtained two separate arrest warrants for 61-year-old Kenneth Wayne Smith of Ocala from the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court for a complete of two felony and 7 misdemeanor expenses. Smith spent Christmas and New Year’s with out bond on the Marion County Jail, on a number of expenses, together with probation violations.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office arrested Smith on Dec. 8 on the primary excellent warrant, and he was booked into the Lake County Jail on one felony and two misdemeanor expenses with bond set at $7,000. On Dec. 21, the Ocala Police Department arrested Smith on the second excellent warrant.

“Thanks to the vigilance of our Agricultural Environmental Services and Agricultural Law Enforcement teams, this scheme was brought to light and this fraudster has been arrested. It should serve as a warning to others attempting to target Florida consumers with fraudulent schemes that we take these crimes seriously and there will be consequences for such illegal activity,” Commissioner Nikki Fried mentioned. “Before hiring a pest control operator or any other service provider, we encourage consumers to research the entity for reported complaints or violations. Know we are here to enforce the law and protect Floridians from fraud and pest control violations, and you can immediately report any concerns to our Department as the state’s lead consumer protection agency.”

The investigation revealed that Smith entered into agreements with shoppers for landscaping and pest management providers and obtained advance funds from a number of residents of The Villages and several other Sumter County residents. Smith then incessantly didn’t carry out the providers in any respect or on the contractually required frequency. When Smith’s purchasers known as to inquire, Smith was unresponsive. Investigators decided that Smith typically modified his enterprise title and placement with out notifying prospects, refunding prepayments, or making preparations to finish the promised providers.

Smith has an extended historical past of points with providers supplied to Villagers via his former garden service firm, Service Smart Inc., with greater than 300 complaints file in opposition to him with Seniors vs. Crime. He dissolved the corporate, which was positioned at 530 NW 1st Ave. in Ocala, on Sept. 22, 2017, based on the Florida Division of Corporations, and apparently continued to do work in The Villages after that date. He was working as a salesman for Good Neighbors Landscape when he was arrested, a Marion County Sheriff’s Office report states.

The Fruitland Park Police Department had its share of dealings with Smith, beginning in August 2018 when a detective met with a Village of Pine Ridge resident who mentioned she had paid a deposit of $1,473 to Service Smart for work that hadn’t been executed. She mentioned she needed pavers put in at her home and when Smith informed her they have been a particular order and the associated fee can be increased, she requested her a refund and hadn’t obtained it.