Fire Protection Contractors Arrested for Endangering Dozens of Businesses
Indictments detailing 112 counts against the suspects released today
SACRAMENTO — A major investigation by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), in partnership with various Tulare County agencies has led to the arrest of Danny Victor Williams, 45, of Camarillo, and Ken Gordon Speck, 46, of Exeter, for providing substandard and faulty fire protection systems to at least 34 Tulare County businesses. Williams is the Responsible Managing Officer/Chief Executive Officer/President of American Fire Services, Inc., dba American Fire Protection (License #726110).
A task force comprised of CSLB, the Tulare County District Attorney's Office, Tulare County Fire Department, and city fire departments in Dinuba, Visalia, Porterville, Tulare, and Lindsey spent months looking into the allegations against the company.
Indictments released this morning in Tulare County Court list the 112 counts leading to Williams' and Speck's arrests last Monday, June 8, 2009. Williams and Speck each face more than 50 counts of failure to maintain a proper fire suppression system, theft, diversion of construction funds, conspiracy, and violations of the fire code. The investigation indicates that the poor workmanship by the defendants and their employees significantly threatened the 34 identified business and possibly many more.
Last Friday, June 12, 2009, a Superior Court judge granted the defendants' requests to lower their bail from the $500,000 set for Williams and the $450,000 set for Speck. Williams was released on $150,000 bail on Friday; Speck on $100,000 bail on Saturday. A pre-trial hearing for the two is set for June 23, 2009, in Department 12 of the Tulare County Superior Court.
"This investigation shows how partnerships can help CSLB move quickly to stop companies whose shoddy work puts consumers at risk," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands.
In December 2008, CSLB issued a statewide Consumer Alert, warning California business owners to beware of Williams, Speck, and other representatives of "American Fire Protection," who, in many instances, were targeting minority and immigrant-owned businesses. CSLB investigators found that company representatives were using high-pressure sales tactics and deceptive methods to convince business owners to buy their services. These methods included:
- Wearing uniforms with patches similar to those worn by fire department staff, giving the impression that they were from the fire department
- Claiming they were fire marshals, authorized to close the business if not allowed to do an inspection of the fire protection systems and make subsequent repairs
- Claiming they were there to service fire extinguishers or hood and duct systems prior to the date those devices needed to be serviced
- Claiming they were at a business to provide service on extinguishers or hood duct systems that were previously serviced by another company
In December, a Tulare County judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop American Fire Protection from impersonating fire personnel and making untrue statements to sell fire protection services. The civil case against the two men is on hold, pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings in Tulare County.
It's believed American Fire Protection, based in Camarillo, has provided fraudulent fire equipment services from the San Francisco Bay Area to Sacramento in northern California; Merced, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, and Kings Counties in the Central Valley; the coastal regions from San Luis Obispo to Ventura; and in Los Angeles and Orange Counties in southern California.
In 2009, CSLB, which operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs, marks its 80th anniversary of protecting consumers by regulating California's construction industry. Today CSLB licenses about 315,000 contractors. In any given year, complaints are filed against only 3% of licensed contractors. In fiscal year 2007-08, the CSLB helped consumers recover $35.2 million in ordered restitution.
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