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ABC Special Report
Investigation: New Home Heartbreak
Trump - NAHB Homebuilders Shoddy Construction and Forced Arbitration
Houston KHOU TV: Contractor Sting
Wednesday, 26 September 2007

A catch and release contractor sting
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation conducts stings, looking for unlicensed contractors. “Jason, this is a huge problem here in Houston,” one undercover investigator said. “Not only in this city, but all across the state of Texas.”  Investigators invited 11 News to take part in their second such operation in Houston. Agents have taken these stings statewide, but they can’t arrest violators. They can only issue fines that can go as high as $5,000. In April, investigators caught almost 40 men at one location, including Adrian Kenrick. He was notorious at the time for allegedly taking money without finishing work. Now he’s now paying off a $3,000 penalty.

A catch and release contractor sting

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
See:  Jason Whitely 11 News Report on Sting Operation
 
SPRING – Catching these guys couldn’t be easier.

“I think it’s exciting to see the guys get caught,” said Amanda Jones with the Air Conditioning Contractors Association. “It’s just one less homeowner that’s going to get taken advantage of.”

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation conducts stings, looking for unlicensed contractors.

“Jason, this is a huge problem here in Houston,” one undercover investigator said. “Not only in this city, but all across the state of Texas.”

Investigators invited 11 News to take part in their second such operation in Houston.

KHOU-TVUndercover agents confront the contractors.

Most of the contractors caught in the sting were not happy to see the 11 News camera on the scene.

“These guys do not have the proper experience, education level,” the investigator said. “Most importantly, they do not have any business or liability insurance.”

Undercover agents find the men in advertisements and have them bid on installing a new air conditioner or replacing an outdated breaker box.

Also online

Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation resources

License database

Complaint database

Some have experience -- none have licenses.

But all of them, one investigator said, know just enough to be dangerous.

“A fire or anything could happen at anytime,” a second investigator said. “You just want to make sure that everybody’s qualified that’s coming in your residence. It’s your place. It’s where you live. You just want to make sure everything’s done correctly.”

Though he advertises he can do it, Ronald Lucas is working illegally. 11 News had a chance to ask him a few questions. 

11 News: “Ronald how long have you been doing this?”

RL: “I’m finished.”

11 News: “What’s that?”

RL: “I’m finished talking.”

11 News: “Well, can you tell us how long you’ve been doing this?” 

If Lucas isn’t talking, Roger Cortez is. 

RC: “I know you.”

11 News: “I’m Jason Whitely from Channel 11.”

RC: “Oh sure; don’t put me on TV.” 

Cortez has been busted five previous times with no license. 

11 News: “This is your sixth time to be caught. Why do you keep doing this man?”

RC: “Just trying to survive really.” 

Perhaps. But the unlicensed contractor drives a fancy Ford truck that has a TV screen inside. And he offered to immediately pay his $1,500 outstanding fine in cash.

Cortez and Lucas are two of 24 contactors caught in this sting -- hardly a fraction of those working in Houston.

“This is not a dent,” an investigator said. “We can’t even comprehend the number of guys and gals operating in this city illegally.”

Agents have taken these stings statewide, but they can’t arrest violators. They can only issue fines that can go as high as $5,000.

In April, investigators caught almost 40 men at one location, including Adrian Kenrick.

He was notorious at the time for allegedly taking money without finishing work. Now he’s now paying off a $3,000 penalty.

The department hopes the fine and public embarrassment pushes contractors like him to get licensed.

Cortez said he has tried and taken the test five times, but can’t pass it.

He’s scheduled to try it again in October.

Until then, he state has no way to shut these people down besides warning consumers Cortez and others are out there.

E-mail 11 News reporter Jason Whitely

http://www.khou.com/topstories/stories/khou070925_ac_contractorsting.10bc691e6.html
 
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