Swimming Pool Scamsters Face Extradition Back to California
Law enforcement team work leads to arrest of Tulare County fugitives
Sacramento — A couple wanted for scamming five central valley residents in a swimming pool scheme are in deep water after being tracked down in a small town in Missouri. The Tulare County District Attorney's office and the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) Special Investigation Unit (SIU), teamed up for the investigation into Adam Garcia and his wife Brandy Garcia's unlicensed swimming pool operation.
Five victims contracted with the Garcias (Garcia Construction) for new in-ground swimming pools. The Garcias took about $59,000 in down payments then fled without completing the work. They also left the victims with about $14,500 in mechanic's liens for unpaid goods & services in addition to their damaged property.
A broadcast about the Garcias being wanted on 6 felonies was sent out. A patrol unit in McDonald County Missouri spotted the Garcia's California plates and pulled them over on July 17. They were arrested and are being held on $500,000 bail. Additional charges could be filed based upon evidence the Garcias may have had with them.
"The Tulare County District Attorney's office is a valuable partner in protecting the public from unlicensed contractors," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Cases like this also highlight the importance of consumers checking out their contractor before signing papers or paying for work that may never be done."
Before hiring any contractor, homeowners should go online at www.cslb.ca.gov or call CSLB's automated phone system 1-800-321-CSLB (2752) to verify that he/she holds a valid license. Ask to see the contractors "pocket license" then compare that to another form of ID like a driver's license.
The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a building contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license;
- Don't rush into decisions and don't hire the first contractor who comes along;
- Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door;
- Don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less;
- Don't pay cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work;
- Get three bids, check references, and a written contract; and
- Contact the CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor
First-time convictions carry a maximum of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine. A following violation carries a mandatory 90-days incarceration plus fines that equal 20% of the work value or $4,500. Other civil and criminal convictions like Identity theft can increase the penalties.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 302,000 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.
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