Tulare Man Facing Elder Abuse and Illegal Contracting Charges
Suspect accused of illegally using another contractor's identity and license number
SACRAMENTO — A joint investigation by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and the Tulare County District Attorney's Office has led to the arrest of a 40-year-old Visalia man on a laundry list of charges that involve elder abuse and illegal contracting. Search warrants and a felony arrest warrant were served on Monte Blue Felemi at his home on September 23, 2008.
Investigators gathered up evidence and business records relating to "Felemi Professional Construction and Tree Service." Felemi was booked into Tulare County's Main Jail where bail was set at $50,000. The charges against him include elder abuse, grand theft, diversion of construction funds, fraudulent use of another's CSLB license, unlicensed contracting, filing false documents, filing perjured documents, and failure to provide workers' compensation insurance for employees.
The alleged fraud was uncovered when Visalia Building Department inspectors noticed that Felemi's name did not match the name registered to the CSLB license number he was using to file applications. The license number belongs to a general contractor based in San Diego County. That company's managers told Tulare County officials that they did not have projects in Tulare County and that Felemi was not authorized to use their business name. They also believed Felemi may have been illegally using their name and CSLB license number for the past two years.
Investigators met with three elderly homeowners who hired Felemi this summer. Two of the homeowners said they paid thousands of dollars and did not receive any services or materials. This resulted in the felony charges of financial elder abuse against Felemi. The three victims paid Felemi more than $20,000.
Anyone with complaints or information about Monte Blue Felemi and/or "Felemi Professional Construction and Tree Service" is encouraged to contact the Tulare County District Attorney Consumer Protection Bureau at (559) 624-1054.
"It only takes a few minutes to check out a contractor's license status. Consumers should do a little research before hiring anyone," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Just because they give you a license number doesn't mean that license is in good standing. 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 telephone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
- Get three references for each contractor and three bids.
- Make sure the work contract 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 315,000 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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