Danville Express

Newsfront - January 26, 2007

Danville contractor couple face charges of fraud

High-end cabinet scheme netted thousands of dollars

by Jordan M. Doronila

Peace officers arrested a Danville couple on suspicion of bilking 10 customers out of more than $100,000 in a cabinetry scheme earlier this month.

Rick Alvin Powers and his wife Cathy were arrested Friday, Jan. 12, for allegedly receiving thousands of dollars from customers to build high-end cabinets but then doing little or no work at all, according to an investigation performed by the Contractors State License Board, Franchise Tax Board and Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office.

Peace officers from the License Board made the arrest.

"Many of these con artists are smooth talkers and their only goal is to get money out of you," said Steve Sands, the Contractors State License Board Registrar. "This case highlights the importance of checking out references and actually seeing contractors' work before hiring them."

The couple could face more than one dozen felony charges that include grand theft, elder financial abuse and failing to file income tax returns. Both were booked into County Jail in Martinez but are out now, said Rick Lopes, License Board spokesman.

"The investigation is still continuing," said Pamela Mares, public information officer for the License Board. She added there are also complaints from customers in the Sacramento area about the Powerses.

"More charges may be pending as the Contractors Board is continuing its investigation," she said.

The charges stem from eight formal consumer complaints to the License Board that the couple would take huge down pavements, as much as 62 percent, for high-end cabinets. However, they would not complete the work that was promised.

They would then allegedly con the consumers into believing the cabinets were about to be finished but say additional money would be needed.

"It's a red flag warning when a contractor asks more than 10 percent down, even to order materials," said Sands.

Additionally, the couple has allegedly failed to pay suppliers, other vendors, employees and taxes, according to board documents. Also, they have had a long complaint history with the License Board on violations of contractor's license law, including receiving excessive payments.

Rick Powers had two contractor licenses revoked, board documents noted. Cathy Powers had one license revoked. Due to the license revocations and convictions, the couple are prohibited from having a contractor's license or acting as an officer, director, associate, partner or qualifying individual for a licensed contractor.

The Franchise Tax Board played a role in the investigations. Its work led to three felony charges, on charges of failing to file their personal state income tax returns in 2001, 2002 and 2003. The couple allegedly earned more than $580,000 in taxable income during this period.

"The joint task force is sending a message that businesses like this not only cheat its clients but also the honest taxpayers of California," said John Barrett, Tax Board spokesman. "The victims in this case include the honest taxpayers and businesses."

The License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The board licenses and regulates the state's 305,000 contractors and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually.

For more information about hiring any contractor, homeowners can visit the board's Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov or call the board's automated phone system at (800) 321-2752. Information includes a contractor's valid license, workers compensation, liability insurance and complaint history.

"We strongly encourage people who have contact or problems with Powers to contact us," Mares said.

Contact Jordan M. Doronila at jdoronila@DanvilleWeekly.com.

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