Couple May Face Prison Time for Swimming Pool Fraud
Contractors State License Board investigation led to charges
SACRAMENTO — A Norco couple could face up to 12 years in prison for multiple felony convictions relating to the diversion of almost half a million dollars in construction funds and leaving homeowners with incomplete swimming pools. Kevin and Lori Brown are scheduled for sentencing on November 16th in Riverside Superior Court after being found guilty of grand theft (14-counts of penal code 484(b) and 6-counts of 487(a)).
Kevin and Lori Brown's company, Kevin Brown Custom Pools & Construction Inc, had their license revoked by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in 2004 following a joint investigation by the CSLB and the Corona Police Department into allegations by 19 homeowners. The Riverside County District Attorney's office prosecuted the case as a criminal matter, charging the couple with grand theft. The State Attorney General's office also became involved in the prosecution.
"We applaud all of those involved in sending such a strong message with their prosecution of this case," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "When contractors fail to do their job and cause such extensive damage to their customers it goes beyond a civil matter." The Browns failed to pay subcontractors and suppliers, leaving homeowners to face property liens, finishing up the jobs on their own, or to pay again for the same work.
CSLB investigators provided expert testimony during the six-week trial on contract law and details involving the diversion of construction funds. Some of the testimony about seized documents showed that business funds were to purchase new motorcycles, a new motor home and boat. The actual investigation took almost five years and included a forensic accounting audit from CSLB, along with gathering witnesses and volumes of evidence.
"It's a red flag warning when a contractor asks for more than 10% down, even to order materials," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Pools are complicated projects that require a lot of attention to details in the contract and with the contractor. Don't pay for items before it's delivered or for work before it's been done."
Before hiring any contractor, homeowners should go online at www.cslb.ca.gov to verify that he/she holds a valid license, has workers compensation, liability insurance and to check out their complaint history. Those resources can also be used by consumers to file complaints and get additional information on contracts, mechanic's liens and how to hire a contractor.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 312,000 contractors, and investigates more than 21,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2006-07, the CSLB helped consumers get almost $45 million in ordered restitution.
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