CSLB Issues Statewide Consumer Alert After Winter Storms Attract Traveling Groups of Unlicensed Pavers to California
Arrests made in Sacramento area; investigators urge possible victims to come forward
SACRAMENTO – This winter’s heavy rains have left many asphalt roads and driveways crumbling or covered with potholes. That’s made the state fertile ground for a long-standing construction scam, families of unlicensed paving and seal coating contractors sweeping in from out-of-state and taking advantage of unsuspecting homeowners.
Last Friday, investigators from the Contractors State License Board’s (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) moved quickly after receiving a complaint about possible transient criminals from Texas who may have tried to con an elderly woman in the Wilton area, south of Sacramento, out of $16,000.
The woman told investigators she was approached while doing yard work by two to three men and a woman, believed to be Johnny Costello and his son David Costello, and Christine Nevils, all of Katy, Texas. She said the group told her they had seal coating left from a previous job and offered her a “great deal” to pave her driveway and parking area.
She agreed, but later stopped payment on the $16,000 worth of checks she wrote to Nevils and another woman, Sandra Costello, after having second thoughts. It’s common for transient criminals to ask for payment directly to individuals, rather than a company. A friend, who is a licensed contractor, urged the victim to contact CSLB.
SWIFT investigators teamed with investigators from the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and worked with the victim to try and bring the suspects back to her house last Friday to collect a new check.
Sandra Costello, 50, and Christine Nevils, 58, appeared at the house, and were arrested. They now could face multiple charges, including grand theft, residential burglary, theft by false pretenses, elder abuse, and contracting without a license.
In the handbag of Sandra Costello, investigators found almost $46,000 in cash and an estimated $200,000 in jewelry, including six Rolex watches. Those items are being held as evidence. The pair’s 2017 Chevy Suburban was impounded, but later released.
The two were jailed, with bail set at $50,000 each. They quickly made bail and were released. Their first court appearance is scheduled for Monday, March 13, 2017.
Investigators believe the four, and likely other family members, including those shown below, traveled with multiple sets of paving and seal coating equipment from Texas into Southern California, up through Bakersfield and the central valley, and finally into the Sacramento area, likely victimizing homeowners all along the way. David Costello, 51, is currently on probation after being convicted of elder abuse related to a similar construction scheme in Florida.
CSLB and DA investigators urge anyone in California who believes they were victimized by the group, operating with the company name “Blacktop Seal Coating” or “D & C Paving,” to immediately contact CSLB investigators at (916) 255-2924, or by email. You should also contact CSLB if you’ve been victimized, or even approached by others with a similar sales pitch, as transient criminals often travel in groups and operate under different personal or business names.
“With heavy rain around the state this winter, it’s especially likely other groups of transient criminals are out there,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “Always be wary when someone shows up uninvited at your front door and says they’ve got a ‘great deal’ with leftover materials.”
CSLB urges consumers to watch for these "red flags" as well:
- No CSLB-issued contractor’s license
- Unsolicited offers to do seal coating, paving, roofing, or painting
- Claims of leftover materials
- High pressure sales or scare tactics
- Reluctance to sign a written contract
- Demand for payment in cash or checks written to individuals or their spouses, rather than to the business
- Brand new vehicles, large pickup trucks with a large tank on the bed or pulling a trainer, dump trucks, or other heavy road construction equipment with out-of-state license plates, no plates at all, or obscured license plates
- Toll-free or out-of-state telephone number, instead of a local contact number
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates almost 290,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2015-16, CSLB helped recover about $41 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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