Business

Houston-area roofing business owner arrested in Florida for allegedly doing unlicensed repair work after Hurricane Ian

Terence Duque, 48, whose Rosenberg-based company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau, faces a felony charge in Charlotte County, Florida. His arrest was criticized by some on social media.

workers sit on a roof after hurricane damage
(AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
Workers talk atop a building that was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ian at Fort Myers Beach, Fla., on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022.

The owner of a Houston-area roofing company is facing criminal charges in Florida for allegedly doing unlicensed business there in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

Terence Duque, 48, the owner of Rosenberg-based Duque Roofing, was arrested Oct. 7 and charged with engaging in contracting business without certification during a state of emergency, a felony, according to online court records in Charlotte County in southwestern Florida. Duque bonded out of jail that same day and is scheduled to appear before a Florida judge on Nov. 7, court records show.

The announcement of Duque's arrest by local authorities in Florida, which suggested his company was attempting to victimize people who had been impacted by the recent storm, prompted backlash from social media users who said Duque Roofing instead appeared to be helping to fulfill a need for repairs and construction work in the wake of the natural disaster. The company operates in Texas and Louisiana and has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 2010, the year after it formed, according to its online profile with the bureau.

An Oct. 9 Twitter post by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation, which showed Duque being handcuffed by a Charlotte County Sheriff's Office deputy, prompted a Twitter user to reply, "Are you aware that you're the bad guys?"

A media relations representative for the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office did not respond Thursday to a request for comment and additional information.

Beth Pannell, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR), wrote in an email that qualified contractors wishing to do business in the state can apply for licenses with the department, which is expediting the review of applicants “so they can get to work on recovery efforts.”

“Unlicensed activity poses significant risks to residents who have suffered severe catastrophic storm damage,” she wrote. “The Department of Business and Professional Regulation works to mitigate these risks to homeowners and businesses through proactive enforcement efforts, outreach and education in the community.”

Duque did not respond to an interview request made Thursday through his company. A woman who answered the phone at Duque Roofing, speaking about the support it has received on social media, said, "We appreciate all of it."

A probable cause affidavit filed in court shows that an investigator with DBPR contacted the economic crimes unit of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office on Oct. 7 and said Duque Roofing had been identified as a contractor that was not licensed to conduct business in Florida. The company had allegedly entered into a contract with a homeowner in the coastal town of Cape Haze, Florida, according to the affidavit.

Representatives of the sheriff's office and state agency met Duque at a Cape Haze community center where the company had parked branded trucks and trailers, according to court records. Duque allegedly told them he had read an emergency order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and was under the impression that out-of-state contractors were being allowed to work in Florida in the aftermath of the hurricane, which was not the case, court documents show.

Duque also told the investigators that one of his employees had called the DBPR and received permission for the company to operate in Florida, but could not name the DBPR representative who spoke with his employee, according to court records.

"Ignorance is not an excuse," Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell said in a news release about Duque's arrest. "If you are in Charlotte County, doing business with the people of this community, you had better be on the up-and-up and have the appropriate licensing and insurance. These people have been through enough, and I will not allow unlicensed contractors to further victimize them."

According to its website, Duque Roofing does residential and commercial roof construction and repairs along with gutter work, and has a sister home improvement business called Brushstrokes Painting and Remodeling.

Duque Roofing's website also has a hurricane relief page where prospective customers are asked to sign up for its "Tarp List." Those on the list will be contacted by the company if a storm hits their area, according to the website, which says those who sign up "are not obligated to use our services."

"Being on our list will help you avoid scammers who often show up after storms hit and it will ensure you get tarped as soon as possible, so we can protect your asset and personal belongings," the company says on its website.

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