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Plumbing Contractor Sentenced for Defrauding Elderly Santa Monica Homeowner
 

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By Jorge Casuso

February 5, 2020 -- A Los Angeles plumbing business was convicted last month for collecting $92,000 from an 82-year old Santa Monica homeowner for what began as routine repair and installation work, City officials announced Wednesday.

Jet Speed Plumbing Inc., dba Ritz Plumbing, was sentenced by a Superior Court judge to three years probation and a disciplinary bond in the amount of $45,000 for illegally overcharging the senior, according to the City Attorneys Office.

The owner of the business -- which depleted the elderly homeowner's bank accounts and retirement savings -- must take and pass multiple Contractors State License Board’s examinations, officials said.

These terms reflect those of a civil order issued against the contractor in a disciplinary hearing before the Board.

In addition to Ritz Plumbing collecting four payments totaling $92,000, an employee of the business obtained an additional $81,000 "for landscaping work that the employee had no license to perform," the City Attorney's office said.

"In one instance, an employee had driven the senior homeowner to her bank so she could withdraw money to pay for the landscaping work," according to officials.

Ritz Plumbing has refunded the homeowner the $92,000, and both the business and its employee, Ignacio Duron, have pled no contest to misdemeanor crimes, officials said.

The case was investigated after one of the homeowner’s adult children contacted the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board (CSLB).

The investigation revealed the homeowner had initially hired Ritz Plumbing to conduct $5,000 of plumbing work for ordinary repairs and installations.

“This case should act as a cautionary tale and reminder that when we are dealing with contractors, it is critical we know our rights and the law,” said Chief Deputy City Attorney Eda Suh of the Consumer Protection Division.

The Ciy Attorney's office advises consumers to obtain at least three bids and three references before hiring a contractor and check with the CSLB to ensure the contractor is licensed.

Consumers also should sign a written contract with the contractor only after carefully reviewing it for accuracy and understanding its terms and not pay more than the legally required down payment and not pay with cash.

Final payment should be made only after "the job is complete and all building inspectors have signed off on the permits," officials said.

For more information about consumer rights when hiring a contractor, or to file a complaint, visit the CLSB website at www.cslb.ca.gov or call CSLB at (800) 321-2752.


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