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Updated: 03/14/2018 08:30:02AM

Pair face numerous fraud charges

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Special to the Highlands News-Sun

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SEBRING Two people have been arrested on multiple felony counts in connection with unlicensed contracting, allegedly taking more than $20,000 from two victims in Sebring.

In exchange for those deposits, 38-year-old Roger Ross and 39-year-old Veronica Fernandez (both of Polk County), replaced five screen panels — three of which later fell out. The other work they allegedly took deposits for — but never showed up to complete — included replacing 19 other screen panels, replacing a roof, tearing down and re-installing a fence and repairing a wall.

According to the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, the pair went to two homes in Sebring in December and gave bids for the work. They presented a business card with the name “Serenity Tree” and gave a license number that turned out to be registered to a solar company in Sarasota that had never heard of either one of the suspects. In total, they allegedly took $20,050 in deposits.

The two were arrested in Polk County on March 7 and were booked into the Highlands County Jail on Monday, March 12 on the following charges, all of which are enhanced due to the state of emergency that still exists due to Hurricane Irma: two counts of advertising as a contractor without a license; two counts of engaging in contracting without a license; two counts of presenting a false contractor license; two counts of fraud to obtain property under $20,000; one count of grand theft of more than $5,000 but less than $10,000; and one count of grand theft of more than $10,000 but less than $20,000.

Ross is also facing two counts of using a two-way device to commit a felony.

Bond for either subject has not been set as of yet, according to HCSO.

“I want to thank the Lake Wales Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance to make these arrests,” Sheriff Paul Blackman said. “I also want to remind everyone to always make sure you are dealing with a licensed professional when it comes to making home repairs. As this case shows, just asking for a license number is not enough. Go to and double check that the information you are given is correct before you give anybody a deposit.”

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone in Highlands or Polk County who has dealt with Ross or Fernandez, even if it is just getting a bid from them, is asked to contact Detective Du’Wayne Kelly at 863-402- 7823 or

If you think you may have been victimized by an unlicensed contractor, call 863-402- 7200 or leave a tip with Heartland Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800- 226-TIPS or visiting Crime Stoppers tips are anonymous and could lead to a cash reward.

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