Homeowners alert county to unlicensed contractor

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By Carol A. Clark

It appears a contractor operating without a license has collectively bilked at least seven Los Alamos homeowners out of some $46,000 in cash.

“The county got complaints and code enforcement looked into it,” said County Code Enforcement Officer Marshall Smith during an interview Friday.

“We did the leg work and turned the information over to the New Mexico Construction Industries Division (CID) and the local police.”

Smith explained that he originally noticed work being done on a residence this summer.

“I went up there and talked to the individual and saw he didn’t have a permit so I shut the job down,” he said. “Other homeowners came forward and said the individual has taken monies from them and did nothing or little work.”

The contractor’s license expired in 1999, he said.

It took this long to piece it all together, Smith said, and he turned his findings over to the local police and to Wayne Dotson, chief of the Investigation and Compliance Bureau of CID and under the Office of the Chief Counsel, Julie Ann Meade.

“The matter is under investigation and if we do obtain probable cause to substantiate the allegations made by the victims, then we’ll submit our findings to the Los Alamos Police Department and the matter will either be turned over to the district attorney or the attorney general,” Dotson said.

He said the case will go to the DA if the investigation finds the contractor contained his fraudulent activities within Los Alamos County.

If those activities spilled into Santa Fe or Rio Arriba counties or any other jurisdictions, Dotson said the case will be turned over to the AG to prosecute.

Dotson declined to release the name of the contractor because of the criminal investigation currently underway.

Det. Sgt. DeWayne Williams confirmed Friday that his investigation division is looking into the matter and asks anyone with information to contact him at 662-8283.

Dotson commended the LAPD and specifically Williams and Chief Wayne Torpy for their assistance with the case, which he said is being aggressively investigated in conjunction with LAPD.

New Mexico statute 60-13-52 states any person who acts in the capacity as a contractor within the meaning of the Construction Industries Licensing Act [60-13-1 NMSA 1978], without a license required by that act ... is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall, where the dollar value of the contracting work is $5,000 or less, be imprisoned in the county jail for 90 days or pay a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $500, or both.

The statute also states that where the dollar value of the contracting work exceeds $5,000, the person may be imprisoned in the county jail for a term of six months or pay a fine of 10 percent of the dollar value of the contracting work, or both.

Dotson cautioned homeowners to ensure a contractor has a license in good standing before entering into an agreement.

Hiring an unlicensed contractor can negate the right to monetary compensation should the contractor disappear without completing the agreed upon work.

Dotson encouraged homeowners to access CID’s website where they can run a contractor’s license to ascertain validity, that the license is appropriate for the work being contemplated, and to uncover past or pending complaints lodged against the contractor.

For information, contact the CID Regulation and Licensing Department, housed in the Toney Anaya Building at 2550 Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe. To verify a contractor's status, access www.rldcid@state.nm.us or call Dotson at 476-4700.