A contractor has been arrested in the unlawful removal of trees from a protected wetland in The Villages.
The damage was done to property behind homes on Valleybrook Way at Lake Deaton. The damage is estimated at between $40,000 and $65,000.
A man known as “Louis,” operating under his company name “Floridian Curb Appeal,” approached several homeowners on Valleybrook Way, offering to clear the property behind their residences for approximately $1,000 each, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. The Village Community Development District advised this property belongs to The Villages, and it is a protected wetland via a permit held by the South West Florida Water Management District.
Sumter County detectives investigated and identified the suspect as 37-year-old Jose Luis Carvajal Ibarra.
A total of 14 residences were found to be involved, 11 of the 14 had vegetation cleared by the suspect.
Carvajal Ibarra approached homeowners, offering to remove and cut foliage in the wetland behind their residences, charging each of the homeowners approximately $500 to more than $1,000 each. According to the residents, Carvajal Ibarra provided everyone reassurance of his work’s legality. He led them to believe he had prior permission from The Villages to conduct the clearing.
The property is clearly marked by a fence and could not be mistaken for resident-owned property.
During the clearing operations, a Villages Community Development District representative spoke with Carvajal Ibarra and made it clear the property was a protected wetland and that it belonged to The Villages. Carvajal abandoned the work on that date but began again following the warning. The clearing of the land spanned over several weeks.
Carvajal Ibarra later admitted to law enforcement he did not have a permit for home solicitation, required by Florida Statute.
He is facing charges of scheme to defraud, criminal mischief, trespassing, and eight counts of home solicitation without a permit. He was booked at the Sumter County Detention Center on $9,000 bond.