BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A Bakersfield woman is warning the community about an unlicensed contractor, with several criminal complaints filed against him, who reportedly conned her out of $7,000.
Karla Reyes told 23ABC that she met 36-year-old Jose Chavez Villegas shortly after moving into her new home in August. Reyes said Villegas told her that he worked for the company she purchased her home from.
"Jose pulled up to our front home, he spoke with my husband and asked if he was ever interested in any work, cement work,' Reyes said. "You know, I took his word that he worked for the company where I bought my house."
Reyes said Villegas even gave her his identification card so that she could take a picture of it, to ensure he was not "crooked." While they continued their conversation Reyes said Villegas quoted her $7,000 for construction work in her backyard.
"For grass, cement, sprinklers, drains. We thought it was a good deal so we're like 'sure when can you start'," Reyes explained.
However, Reyes said looking back now, she realizes there were red flags when she tried to pay Villagas with a check.
"He said he couldn't take the check because he wasn't going to be able to pretty much pay for the stuff in the stores, Reyes added. "Which made sense to me at the time and I was like 'okay, that's perfectly fine, cash it is'."
Reyes said Villegas kept making excuses for not showing up, never completed the work and stopped accepting her phone calls.
Reyes told 23ABC that she lost more than $7,000 and has since filed a criminal complaint with the Kern County District Attorney's Office.
According to the Kern County District Attorney's Office, Villegas has been on their radar for several years now and currently has a pending misdemeanor case that involves various forms of contracting without a license.
District Attoney Joseph Kinzel confirmed with 23ABC that Villegas currently has a pending misdemeanor case that involves various forms of contracting without a license.
The California State License Board also issued a notice to the public saying, investigators found that Villegas was taking advantage of Spanish speaking residents in Bakersfield, that he was sentenced to eight months in jail for working while unlicensed and he was ordered to pay $90 thousand dollars in restitution to victims.
However, Kinzle said you should always ask for a license number from any contractor and research them on the California Licensing Board's website, especially since you can also be held liable for any work not permitted.
"If you hire a non license contractor that person is your employee, so that means you are responsible for workers compensation, you are responsible for damages caused by those workers," Kinzel said.
The Better Business Bureau said get at least three different bids, never pay more than 10% of the total cost up front in cash or check , keep all receipts and don't make the final payment until you are satisfied with the job.
Officials also said make sure you get everything in writing, do not sign the contract and remember any construction work worth $500 or more requires an active license through the state of California.
Kinzle said even though the District Attorney Office is actively conducting sting operations to catch illegal contractors you should also always do one more thing before you move forward with anyone. Officials said this is just one of many illegal construction cases taking place in Kern County and it's a reminder for everyone at home to do their homework before paying someone to work on your home.
"Say let me see your ID, take a picture of it with your phone just in case," Kinzel added.
We did speak to Villegas, but he declined to comment on this case and referred us to his attorney who was not in his office.
Villegas is due back in court November 1, for his pretrial.