Contractor Arrested for Elder Abuse May Face Trial
SAN DIEGO — A Contractors State License Board (CSLB) investigation has led to the recent arrest and scheduled preliminary hearing of an unlicensed contractor. The hearing for Ralph P. Rickly is set for August 27 in San Diego Superior Court. Rickly, an unlicensed contractor with a history of victimizing elderly mobile homeowners, has also been the subject of CSLB investigations in the past.
The San Diego Police Department arrested Rickly and booked him on grand theft, elder abuse, and contracting without a license. He is accused of illegally operating under the business name All American Mobile Home Service and contracting for unnecessary work, performing poor work, and charging more than the work is worth. Additional business names Rickly uses are Western Mobile Home Service, Superior Mobilhome Detailers, and Image Mobile Home Detailing.
In a recent CSLB investigation, a 90-year-old woman was contacted by Rickly who offered to power wash her mobile home. He claimed he discovered needed repairs during the washing and convinced her to let him do the work. The woman paid Rickly $7,425 for jobs, including work on the home's piers and pads and faulty installation of a french drain. An industry expert said the shoddy work was valued at approximately $2,145.
This was not the first time Rickly has victimized this particular woman. One year ago, she paid him $2,400 for a home leveling service. At that time, he also took advantage of another elderly widow who suffers from memory loss and could not remember why she had paid Rickly twice for the same repairs to her mobile home. CSLB had worked with the Escondido Police Department in July 2001 to arrest Rickly on elder abuse, grand theft, and contracting without a license charges. He bailed out of jail and was awaiting legal proceedings.
"Sadly, these cases illustrate how some elderly homeowners are targeted by dishonest contractors who are out to take advantage of vulnerable consumers. Before hiring or paying a contractor, I urge all homeowners to take their time and to check with the CSLB for information," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands.
The CSLB warns elderly homeowners to check with a friend or relative before signing a contract and to be wary of solicitors who create a false sense of urgency and pressure them into agreeing to home improvement work.
Senior citizens should follow these tips when hiring a contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license
- Check the contractor's license on the CSLB Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling (800) 321-CSLB
- Be wary of door-to-door or telephone solicitations
- Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision about hiring a contractor
- Get at least three bids and check references
- Get a written contract
- Ask a friend or relative to review the contract before signing
- 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 payments get ahead of the work.
The Contractors State License Board, which operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, licenses 278,000 contractors in California and investigates 25,000 complaints against licensed and unlicensed contractors annually.
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