A contractor at the center of a bitterly contested tree-cutting incident had a previous run-in years earlier in The Villages.
Residents of the Village of Lake Deaton angrily told their side of the story Thursday afternoon before the Community Development District 10 Board of Supervisors. They said they have been unfairly branded as criminals in the community and the real fault lies with 37-year-old Jose Luis Carvajal Ibarra, the contractor who claimed to have permission from The Villages District Office to remove vegetation from a protected wetland near their homes. He is facing charges of scheme to defraud, criminal mischief, trespassing, and eight counts of home solicitation without a permit. He remains free on $9,000 bond.
He is scheduled for a virtual hearing at 9 a.m. July 26 in Sumter County Court.
An investigation by the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office revealed that Carvajal Ibarra approached the Village of Lake Deaton 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.
In 2017, Carvajal Ibarra was questioned in a report of “illegal cutting of trees within a wildlife management area,” on Iron Oak Way in the Village of Osceola Hills. When the deputy arrived on the scene, he could hear the sound of chainsaws coming from behind a residence on the bank of Lake Deaton. Carvajal Ibarra was identified as the owner of Florida Curb Appeal, the company for whom the other men at the site were working. Carvajal Ibarra told the deputy he had been instructed by a man named “Fred” to cut down vines and dead trees and not to cut down any live trees, according to the incident report from the sheriff’s office. He was not charged in that incident.
At the time of that 2017 incident, Villagers were still smarting from a now-infamous case of trees being chopped down to improve the view of residents at the Village of Bridgeport at Lake Miona. The mystery landscapers were never found and no one publicly owned up to arranging for the work.
Carvajal Ibarra was also arrested in 2016 on charges of possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.