Criminal Contractor Sentenced to Prison for Elder Fraud
Ordered to pay $187,000 in Restitution
SACRAMENTO — An investigation conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has resulted in the sentencing of a transient criminal. Albert Ralph Hedger, who posed as a landscaper and illegally took $187,000 from an 84-year-old woman, was sentenced in Sacramento Superior Court on April 14 to four years in state prison and ordered to pay $187,000 in restitution. The investigation was initiated by the Sacramento County Adult Protective Services and pursued by the CSLB.
The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department arrested Hedger in February on an unrelated drug warrant, as well as a warrant for burglary involving an elder. At a hearing to reduce bail, Hedger's bail was raised from $50,000 to $100,000. On March 15, Hedger pleaded guilty to burglary involving theft from an elder and was ordered to pay his elderly victim $187,000 in restitution.
In March of 2000, the elderly widow was pulling weeds in the front yard of her North Sacramento home when Albert Ralph Hedger rode up on his bicycle and offered to weed the yard for $5 in gas money. Hedger then offered and was hired to do more work around her yard, including replacing a wooden flower box, trimming a tree, and repairing the sprinkler system. An industry expert estimated that the work Hedger did on the flower box was worth no more than $900. Hedger calls himself a handyman and painter and admits that he is unlicensed and takes payments"under the table." Anyone who performs contracting work that totals $500 or more must be licensed by the Contractors State License Board.
Over the next nine months, Hedger told the woman one story after another to swindle more money from her. He often said he needed money for truck repairs, so he could haul building materials to her house or that he needed to get his truck or his girlfriend's car out of impound. At one point, he said that he needed to pay a fee for a job examination and work boots. None of his stories were true, and the woman wrote checks to Hedger almost every day from two bank accounts, totaling $187,000.
The CSLB urges senior homeowners to beware of solicitors and to follow these tips before hiring a contractor to perform any kind of work around their house or yard:
- Hire only licensed contractors
- Don't be rushed or pressured into making a decision to hire a contractor
- Check the contractor's license on CSLB's Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov
- Get a written contract and don't sign it until you understand the terms
- Review the contractor's offer and contract with a neighbor, friend, or relative
- 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
- Order free consumer publications on CSLB's Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov.
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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