Unlicensed Contractor Sentenced To 18-Year Prison Term
RIVERSIDE COUNTY — A Contractors State License Board (CSLB) investigation, conducted in cooperation with the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, led to the 18-year prison sentence recently imposed on an area contractor by a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge. Gary Charles Wagner, an unlicensed contractor, was originally sentenced to the 18-year term in June of 2000, but was released for one year in order to repay his victims. If he had paid $58,000 in restitution, Wagner's sentence would have been reduced; however, he did not repay any of his victims and was ordered to state prison.
Wagner not only failed to pay restitution he also allegedly victimized additional homeowners in Riverside County after the convictions. One elderly woman paid Wagner $16,000, nearly all of her life's savings, which left her with $200 in the bank. He did some work to her ceilings, abandoned the project, and left the 74-year-old without air conditioning in the middle of the summer. The CSLB urges anyone who believes they may have been victimized by Wagner to file a complaint. Call 1-800-321-CSLB or log onto www.cslb.ca.gov to order a complaint form.
Homeowners reported they met Wagner in home improvement stores. He would strike up a conversation with them while they shopped and then offer to perform contracting work. After an agreement was made and money paid, homeowners claim that Wagner did little or no work and moved on.
The CSLB began receiving complaints in 1998. In 1999, as a result of 30 complaints to the CSLB and the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, the DA charged Wagner with 46 misdemeanor and felony violations, including grand theft, contracting without a license, diversion of construction funds, petty theft, and residential burglary.
"Be certain you know who you're dealing with and check with the Contractors State License Board to verify a license before you make any decisions about hiring a contractor," said CSLB Registrar Stephen P. Sands.
The CSLB urges homeowners to follow these tips when hiring a contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license
- Check the contractor's license on CSLB's Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling (800) 321-CSLB
- Get at least three bids and check references
- Get a written contract, and don't sign anything until you completely understand the terms
- Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment
- Don't pay cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work
- Contact the CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 278,000 contractors, and investigates 25,000 complaints against contractors annually.
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