Contractors State License Board Seeks Additional Victims of Phony Contractor in Lake County
Suspect under investigation for defrauding seniors in contracting scheme
SACRAMENTO — A man suspected of defrauding at least three elderly victims in the Lake County area is under investigation by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB).
Larry Brown (54 years-old) has been operating in the Lake County area under the name of "All Seasons Tree Service." Victims reported that Brown would take large down payments or full payment for tree trimming, deck repair and fences and never return to finish the work. There are also reports of him soliciting work in Sonoma County.
The CSLB Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) investigators will be delivering a case to local prosecutors that includes multiple felony charges of elder abuse, grand theft, diversion of funds, in addition to misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license and illegal advertising.
Brown has a long history of run-ins with local law enforcement authorities and a prison record. It could be double-trouble for Brown, who was on parole from a prior drug and theft conviction.
The CSLB and Lakeport Police believe there may be additional victims and are encouraging them to come forward. Anyone who has contracted with or has information about Larry Brown is asked to contact CSLB at (916) 255-4602 or by fax at (916) 255-1959.
"We are strongly encouraging everyone to be careful of whom they invite into their homes for repairs or home improvement work," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "It is not uncommon for unlicensed operators to have prior run-ins or problems with the law."
It only takes a few minutes to check out a contractor's license status. Consumers should do a little research before hiring one. Consumers should ask for the contractor's plastic pocket license and photo identification, then go online or call the CSLB's automated phone system to verify the status of the license.
The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with any contractor:
- 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, especially when they will use material they claim is left over from another job.
- Verify the contractor's license by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov or via CSLB's automated phone service at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
- Get three references for each contractor and three bids.
- Make sure the contract for work to be done is in writing and that you understand all terms before you sign it.
- Never pay more than 10% or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment.
- Don't pay in cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Contact the CSLB if you have a complaint against 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 316,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2007-08, the CSLB obtained nearly $35.2 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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