A former investigator with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board (PCCLB) has been arrested on public corruption charges, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office says in a statement.
“This unfortunately is a classic case of public corruption that stems from greed and the abuse of power,” Sheriff Bob Gauateri said at a May 18 news conference. “Wagner’s misconduct covers the spectrum of public corruption.”
According to detectives, in 2020, 39-year-old Andrea Wagner initiated a relationship with Chris Thompson and Rachel Debrakins, owners of the general contracting company Credence Construction in St. Petersburg, the statement says. Wagner was employed as a PCCLB Investigator whose area of responsibility was in south Pinellas County.
Detectives say, after Wagner met Thompson and Debrakins, she improperly began referring clients to Credence Construction. Wagner also spoke with Thompson and Debrakins about properties she owned that she was planning to refurbish and sell for profit.
According to detectives, Wagner loaned $90,000 to Credence Construction in addition to contracting with the company for refurbishments on her property at 4725 Lake Charles Way in Kenneth City.
Detectives say, during the same period of time in which Credence Construction was working under contract on Wagner’s residence, PCCLB received two complaints made against Credence Construction for unlicensed contracting and Wagner was assigned to investigate.
As the assigned investigator, Wagner responded to the complaints and her pattern of retaliation began when Wagner falsely cited the citizens who filed the initial complaints against Credence Construction. Wagner took no action against Credence Construction regarding the unlicensed contracting.
Detectives say in August 2020, Wagner transacted the subordination sale of a home she owned at 940 26th Street North in St. Petersburg to Credence Construction for $115,000. In December 2021, Wagner and Credence Construction came to an agreement where Wagner would be compensated to a total of $214,000 that included: $90,000 loan, $115,000 sale of property located on 940 26th Street North, and $9,000 collected in interest.
According to detectives, in April 2022 Wagner became aware that the residence was completed and listed for sale at $749,000. After seeing the advertised price of the renovated home, Wagner contacted Thompson and requested him to pay her an additional $136,000 (total of $350,000) or she would not sign the deed.
Detectives say, in text messages exchanged between Wagner and Thompson, she corruptly incentivized Thompson by telling him that if he paid her the $350,000 that she would “turn a blind eye” to construction licensing complaints about Credence Construction in her assigned area.
Based on Wagner’s previous retaliatory acts, Thompson believed that if he did not pay Wagner the additional amount that she was seeking, she would retaliate against Credence Construction. Following his communication with Wagner, Thompson contacted his attorney who then filed a complaint with Pinellas County Government. Shortly after receiving the complaint, Pinellas County Government began an investigation and Wagner ultimately resigned from employment while under investigation, the statement said.
“Wagner’s misconduct covers the spectrum of public corruption,” Guatieri said at the press conference.
The full press conference can be found here: https://youtu.be/cMyTq984THI
The PCCLB and its investigators are responsible for ensuring that people who engage in plumbing, electrical, and other construction work have the skills and licenses that are necessary in order to properly complete the work they are hired to do. PCCLB investigators are not sworn law enforcement officers, but do have the authority to enforce the law by issuing citations that result in fines and they work in conjunction with law enforcement where criminal investigations are conducted.
For additional information on any further investigations being conducted by the PCCLB contact the Pinellas County Government Public Information Office at 727-580-1525.