Tulare County Contractor Scammer Goes Straight to Jail
Contractors State License Board and District Attorney's Office get predator off the streets
SACRAMENTO — A con artist who ripped off consumers and stole the identity of a legitimate contracting company went directly from the courtroom to jail thanks to an investigation by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and the Tulare County District Attorney's Office. Marcello Alejandro Cabrera had pled no contest in two cases involving contracting without a state license and using someone else's contractor's license number.
The Tulare county man was operating a business under the names of "All Valley Restoration," "Central Valley Restoration" and "RC Construction." A couple of legitimate contractors who own a Tulare based construction company with a similar name started getting phone calls asking about the Marcello Cabrera's arrest this past March. He had been using their license number and a name that sounded very much like their company. There were also complaints from banks, consumers and suppliers.
Marcello Cabrera appeared for sentencing last week on 9 charges, including a felony for diversion of construction funds, 3 felony counts for using someone else's contractors license and contracting without a state license. After a number of victims gave their statements in court, Judge James Holman immediately ordered Marcello remanded straight to jail. He faces a one year term and 5 years of felony probation. A hearing to determine restitution for victims is scheduled for September 6.
"Always make sure the person you are dealing with is legitimate," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "It only takes a few minutes to check out a license on CSLB's Web site and then compare their contractors pocket license to a photo ID to see that they are who they claim to be."
By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB. Because many unlicensed operators don't comply with the workers compensation laws and don't pay payroll and other taxes, they often submit lower bids on jobs. Many have other problems with the law. Plus, if a deal goes bad with an unlicensed contractor, the homeowner has very few options.
The CSLB strongly encourages consumers to look up the contractor's license at www.cslb.ca.gov; or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752) to see if there are complaints or irregularities. Consumers can also use those sources to get information on how to file complaints with the CSLB.
The CSLB also 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 at www.cslb.ca.gov; or call 1-800-321-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 the 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 310,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2005-06, the CSLB helped consumers get more than $36 million in restitution.
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