Local Unlicensed Contractor Receives Prison Sentence for Elder Abuse
LOS ANGELES — An investigation conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has resulted in a four-year prison sentence for Duane S. Kressin, an unlicensed air conditioning and heating contractor who has a criminal past that involves contracting scams against elderly homeowners. He was also ordered to pay $2,600 in restitution to his most recent victims.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office prosecuted the case against Kressin after he was arrested and charged with felony residential burglary, theft from an elder, grand theft, and contracting without a license. Kressin's sentence was increased by one year - from three to four years - because he committed these crimes while serving a state prison sentence in a restitution house. In 2001, the Orange County Superior Court ordered him to serve a three-year state prison term for charges of elder abuse and grand theft in similar scams, which now gives him one "strike" in the three strikes law on his record.
Kressin used scare tactics and made misleading statements to convince elderly homeowners they needed to replace their heating and air conditioning units. In one case from 2003, an elderly man, who participated in his utility company's low-income program, received a call from Kressin. The contractor offered to install a new heating and air conditioning system, which reportedly came with an 82 percent rebate. Kressin visited the homeowner several times, collecting checks and cash for promised work, ranging from installation of a furnace to upgraded electrical to plumbing work, all at Kressin's urging. The man ended up paying Kressin $15,160 for partial completion of these various jobs, and never received his promised rebate.
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.
The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when hiring any contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors
- Verify the contractor's license with the CSLB at www.cslb.ca.gov
- Don't be rushed or pressured into making a decision to hire a contractor
- Get a written contract
- Do not pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less
- Do not let payments get ahead of the work
- Get three bids and check references
- Do not pay cash.
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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