Unlicensed Contractor Jailed for Fraud
BUTTE COUNTY — Repeat offender and unlicensed contractor Samuel N. Arnold began serving a sentence of one year in Butte County jail and five years formal probation on Wednesday, February 25, after pleading guilty to six felonies including elder abuse, grand theft, theft by false pretenses and diversion of construction funds.
The conviction stems from an 18-month Contractors State License Board (CSLB) investigation. Arnold's plea agreement allows him to avoid an eight year, eight month state prison sentence by serving 365 days in Butte County jail and making restitution payments totaling more than $70,000 to four victims. If he violates the terms of his probation or fails to make restitution payments as prescribed, he will finish his full sentence in state prison.
In August 2002, CSLB arrested Arnold in Butte County for contracting without a license. At the time of the arrest, Arnold was on probation for a similar crime in San Mateo County. Then in the Fall of 2003, CSLB issued a Notice to Appear after investigators learned that he had continued his illegal activities in Butte County with the help of his wife Linda. She also pled guilty to contracting without a license and was sentenced to 90 days in Butte County jail.
Illegally using a San Francisco Bay Area contractor's license number "with permission," Arnold offered his services for roofing and tree work. He and his wife then took between $800 and $50,000 from each of their victims through a variety of scams. One victim gave Arnold an $8,500 down payment for a sunroom, only to have him demand more money after he partially constructed a deck.
Fred Van Nostrand, the contractor who illegally allowed Arnold to use his license number, was cited $17,000 by the CSLB and his license may be revoked for his role in the crimes.
The CSLB urges consumers to protect themselves by following these tips when they hire a contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors and check their pocket license against photo identification
- Verify the license status and classification at www.cslb.ca.gov or (800) 321-CSLB
- Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract
- Don't rush into repairs, no matter how badly they're needed
- Don't pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less
- Don't pay cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
Operating under the umbrella of 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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