Contractor Fraud Adds Up To Big Numbers in Tulare County
Investigators also find concealed, loaded handguns and Over $20,000 in cash
SACRAMENTO — A Visalia man faces 19 felony charges, including burglary and forgery, after allegedly using a Southern California man's contractor's license to get business in Tulare County. John Kochevar was arrested on Wednesday after members of the Contractors State License Board's (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), Special Investigation Unit (SIU), and the Tulare County District Attorney's Office conducted searches of Kochevar's home and business office.
It is believed Kochevar, who had his contractor's license taken away in 2003, worked on numerous construction projects in Tulare County without a valid license. Staff at the Visalia Records Planning Department became suspicious because many permits were pulled under the same contractor's license number. A check of that number determined that it actually belonged to a general contractor in the Los Angeles area. That contractor told investigators he's never worked on jobs in Tulare County and does not know Kochevar.
At Kochevar's home and office, investigators seized contracts totaling close to six figures in value along with billing information, computer data and $18,000 in cash. When he was arrested a short time later at a job site, Kochevar was carrying $2,400 in cash. Inside his vehicle were two loaded handguns.
"This is an important warning of why it's so important to double check and see that a contractor is who they say they are before you hire them," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands "Ask to see their pocket license, which has their license number and name. Ask to see a picture I.D. to make sure it matches the license. Then, check them out with the Board to make sure they're licensed and don't have any actions against them."
The investigation in this case continues. Anyone with information regarding Kochevar or who has hired Kochevar is urged to contact the CSLB or the Tulare County District Attorney.
The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when hiring any contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors
- Verify the license owner, business name and address and ask for a picture I.D.
- Verify the contractor's license with the CSLB at www.cslb.ca.gov or call (800) 321-CSLB (2752)
- Get three bids and check references
- 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
- Do not pay cash
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 292,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2004-05, the CSLB helped consumers get more than $36 million in restitution. To check out a contractor's license, visit our Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov or call (800) 321-CSLB (2752).
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