Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A Richland County resident reached out to the News19 On Your Side team after the company she hired to cut down a tree revealed they did the work without a license to operate a business in Richland County.
Mary C. Janes made a common mistake and didn't ask about the license before the company started working in her yard.
Richland County Deputies confronted P&C Tree Service, who admitted they were not operating with a license.
"He came clean with me, 'man we don't have a license,'" said Odell Glenn, a senior investigator with the Richland County Sheriff's Department.
Odell did not press charges against the business, telling us the county's business services center does that.
"That's to be determined by the business organization here because operating without a business license is really the counties business office area," Glenn said. "When we get a call or complaint from a business, we look at it from a criminality point, and if our citizens have been scammed, then of course it's up to us to bring charges."
The Richland County Business Service Center say are the primary agency that works with business not operating in compliance with county ordinances.
They say they first contact the business by phone, letter, or in person to try and bring the business into compliance, which requires them to have a business license.
If there's no progress, they can order a Summons to Magistrate Court, which takes the issue before a judge.
The county ordinance also allows for the Sheriff's Department, Planning Department, Building Inspections, and Fire Marshall to send an unlicensed business to court.
The ordinance allows for a maximum fine of $1092.50 or 30 days behind bars.
While the Sheriff's Office chose not to issue a summons in this case, they say they get involved when a incident report is filed and a criminal case is determined.
Consumer experts say to avoid a crooked business, ask about a business licensed BEFORE any work is completed or money exchanged.