Contractors State License Board Looks for Paving Scam Suspect and Additional Victims
$750,000 warrant issued for arrest of transient criminal
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is looking for anyone who has information about Richard John Williams, or who may have hired him for a paving job. A $750,000 warrant for Williams' arrest was issued by the Lake County District Attorney's office on Thursday, March 26, 2009, on charges of grand theft, elder abuse, and contracting without a license.
Mr. Williams had been living in a motel and operating in the Lake County area for at least four months under the business name of "Seal Coat Contractor." Williams has a long history of unlicensed, illegal contracting and substandard work. He is currently out on bail after appearing on March 23, 2009, for sentencing on a prior felony construction-related case. However, since additional charges were filed following the March 19 arrest, Mr. Williams was rescheduled to appear in Lake County Superior Court on April 27. It is believed that he has left the Lake County area.
Williams has been arrested numerous times, including a 2005 multi-victim case in Mendocino County. He has operated his paving scam in a number of northern California communities and is known to have worked in Sonoma, Sacramento, Mendocino, Yolo, and Colusa Counties.
Investigators from CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) working with the Lake County District Attorney's office set up a sting operation after hearing how Mr. Williams tried to victimize an elderly man who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Williams was arrested during the operation at a Kelseyville mobile home park on March 19, 2009, when he gave undercover investigators a bid of $3,500 to fill driveway cracks and reseal the surface. A state contractor's license is required to legally bid on jobs that are $500 or more. He was out on $20,000.00 bail from his original arrest when the new arrest warrant was issued.
- Anyone who would like to report unlicensed contracting in northern California should contact the Sacramento SWIFT Unit at: (916) 255-2924.
Transient contracting scams occur year-round; spring is a popular time because home owners start property improvements when the weather gets better. "Scammers have no conscience when it comes to ripping off people," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "They don't care if the victims are elderly or churches or whether they understand English. They pick out the most vulnerable people without a second thought."
Transient scammers usually approach property owners, saying they have left-over materials and offer to fix potholes or pave driveways at bargain rates. Then, they raise the price, use defective materials, and/or do poor work. They often ask for payment up front or quickly cash checks and leave the area before victims know they have been ripped off.
There are bands of fraudulent home repair workers who are often members of extended families that move around the country, scamming countless residents along the way. "Be very wary of solicitors offering door-to-door home improvement services," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Don't let anyone in your home or yard unless you have checked them out. You can ask to see their CSLB Pocket License, and then look it up on the CSLB Web site (www.cslb.ca.gov) to see if it is valid."
CSLB urges consumers to be wary of transient solicitors and to watch for these "red flags:"
- Door-to-door solicitations
- Unsolicited offers to do painting, roofing or paving work
- Claims of inexpensive surplus materials
- High pressure or scare tactics
- Reluctance to sign a written contract
- Demand for payment in cash
- Brand new vehicles, dump trucks, or other heavy road construction equipment with out-of-state license plates
- Toll-free business telephone number, instead of a local contact number
Consumers can verify a contractor's license status through CSLB's Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov or through its toll-free automated telephone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752). Find out if the contractor's license is active and in the right classification for the work to be done. Consumers can also learn whether CSLB has taken any disciplinary action against the contractor, if the business name and address are correct, and if there is workers' compensation insurance coverage for employees.
Consumers can also download tips and publications on topics like hiring a contractor and home improvement contracts. The CSLB Web site also has a location for people to report unlicensed activity.
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 more than 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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