A contractor has been sentenced in an illegal tree-cutting incident in The Villages.
Jose Luis Carvajal Ibarra, 38, was arrested earlier this year after the unlawful removal of vegetation from a protected area at Lake Deaton, behind homes in the Village of Dunedin. He was arrested on charges of scheme to defraud, criminal mischief, trespassing, and eight counts of home solicitation without a permit.
Earlier this month in Sumter County Court, Carvajal Ibarra entered a plea of no contest in the case.
He has been placed on probation for three years. The sentence did not include restitution to the district government in The Villages, which is the owner of the property where the damage was inflicted.
At the time the illegal cutting was discovered, the Community Development District 10 Board of Supervisors expressed outrage and vowed to make the perpetrators, potentially including homeowners, pay for the damage. Equally angry residents later showed up at Savannah Center to confront the CDD 10 board over the accusations.
An investigation by the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office revealed that Carvajal Ibarra approached the 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.