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The Villages
Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Agriculture commissioner targets unscrupulous landscaper in The Villages

Kenneth Wayne Smith
Kenneth Wayne Smith

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has teamed up with local law enforcement and other agencies resulting in the arrest of a landscaping/pest control sales representative with a long history of unscrupulous activity in The Villages.

Acting on information obtained during 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 total of two felony and seven misdemeanor charges. Smith spent Christmas and New Year’s without bond at the Marion County Jail, on a host of charges, including probation violations.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office arrested Smith on Dec. 8 on the first outstanding warrant, and he was booked into the Lake County Jail on one felony and two misdemeanor charges with bond set at $7,000. On Dec. 21, the Ocala Police Department arrested Smith on the second outstanding 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 said. “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 consumers for landscaping and pest control services and received advance payments from several residents of The Villages and several Sumter County residents. Smith then frequently failed to perform the services at all or at the contractually required frequency. When Smith’s clients called to inquire, Smith was unresponsive. Investigators determined that Smith often changed his business name and location without notifying customers, refunding prepayments, or making arrangements to complete the promised services.

Smith has a long history of issues with services provided to Villagers through his former lawn service company, Service Smart Inc., with more than 300 complaints filed against him with Seniors vs. Crime. He dissolved the company, which was located at 530 NW 1st Ave. in Ocala, on Sept. 22, 2017, according to the Florida Division of Corporations, and apparently continued to do work in The Villages after that date. He was working as a salesperson 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, starting in August 2018 when a detective met with a Village of Pine Ridge resident who said she had paid a deposit of $1,473 to Service Smart for work that hadn’t been done. She said she wanted pavers installed at her house and when Smith told her they were a special order and the cost would be higher, she requested her money back and hadn’t received it.

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