Unlicensed Fire Suppression System Installer Facing Felony Charges
A Contractors State License Board (CSLB) investigation prompted the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office to file charges against a Richmond man for illegally contracting to install a fire suppression system in a Pittsburg area restaurant. Mario Rene Paz faces felony charges of fraudulent use of another person's license and contracting without a license, a misdemeanor. Paz is scheduled for arraignment on July 9, 2001 at 8:30 a.m. in Pittsburg Superior Court.
CSLB launched an investigation after receiving an inquiry from the Contra Costa Fire Protection District. A fire inspector there became suspicious after Paz submitted an application and drawings for installation of a fire suppression system in a new restaurant in Pittsburg. Paz claimed to be affiliated with a legitimately licensed contractor. Upon further investigation it was determined that Paz was not employed by or affiliated with the company and had no authorization or permission to use their contractor's license. Paz is not a licensed contractor and is not licensed by the State Fire Marshal to install or service fire suppression systems.
CSLB's complaint alleges that Paz contracted to install a fire suppression system at the El 7 Mares Mexican restaurant for $1,800, and that he took a 50% deposit of $900 for the job. The complaint also alleges that Paz illegally serviced fire extinguishers at a Kentfield grocery store, and used fraudulent certification tags on the extinguishers.
The restaurant fire suppression units, or ansul systems, are complex systems that are installed above and around industrial stoves and activate automatically to extinguish a fire in the stove hood system.
"This case involves a serious health and safety risk. The equipment Paz intended to provide is very technical in nature - and very dangerous if not installed or serviced properly. A failure of this kind of system could lead to the loss of property or life. That's why it's so important for consumers to ensure that they deal only with licensed contractors," said Steve Sands, Registrar of the Contractors State License Board.
If consumers or local business owners have been approached by or received services from Paz or other unlicensed fire suppression system installers, they are urged to contact the Contractors State License Board at (800) 321-2752 or Deputy District Attorney Jim Sepulveda at (925) 646-4620.
The CSLB urges consumers 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 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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