Yakima scammer posed as contractor, defrauded victims across WA state

Source: Google News

Yakima scammer posed as legitimate contractor, defrauded victims across Washington state
Image credit: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, Facebook

YAKIMA, Wash. — An unregistered contractor has been cited for 10 infractions by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I); alleging that he used the information of legitimate businesses and took deposits for jobs he never completed or even started.

The man in question is 39-year-old Antonio “Tony” Gonzalez, according to L&I. They say that 11 customers reported tens of thousands of dollars worth of deposits lost after submitting them to Gonzales. Those victims stem from the Tri-Cities and Yakima region to Seattle, Everett, and Olympia, WA.

Gonzales’ last known addresses were in Wapato and Union Gap, according to L&I investigators. They have cited him for 30 civil infractions from July 2021 to January 2022 alone. The sum of fines he has racked up with these infractions totals more than $110,000.

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Currently, the Yakima County Prosecutor’s Office is considering whether or not to file criminal charges against Gonzales for his fraudulent activities. Additionally, several police reports have been filed in local jurisdictions across the state.

A Yakima man named Ernesto Gonzalez, who has spent more than two decades building his business—Gonzalez & Sons Carpentry LLC—has been contacted by two victims who threatened to take legal action against him for something he didn’t do.

“It’s ruined my reputation that I worked so hard for 20-plus years to build up. It’s not easy to build a business being Hispanic,” Ernesto Gonzalez said. “This guy just decided to pick up my information and drag it through the mud.”

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An investigation by the L&I suggests that Tony is targeting business owners who share his last name. Another contractor who has been negatively impacted by his actions is Constantino Gonzalez, who owns the Everett-based business Gonzalez Contractors LLC.

Tony, who is acquiring much of his false business through Craigslist, has required down payments of 50% before starting each project.

The victims include a Richland couple who paid Gonzales $3,000 to remodel their bathroom. The suspect and a worker showed up for one day, demolished a door, and never returned. This left a woman and her husband, who is battling cancer, with an unfinished bathroom and no door.

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Another pair of victims, a couple who live in Yakima, lost an $18,000 down payment for a barn that Tony Gonzales never even started to build.

Washington state law requires that independent contractors register with L&I to ensure they run a legitimate business. The Department offered the following guidelines for anyone planning to hire a contractor to do work for them:

  • Get contractors’ business card or estimate with their name and contractor registration number.
  • Go to L&I’s ProtectMyHome.net or call 1-800-647-0982 to:
    • Verify contractor registration.
    • Get the owner’s name and phone number.
  • Call the listed phone number to confirm you are dealing with the legitimate owner or employee.
  • Get a well-written contract to ensure access to the contractor’s bond.
  • Never risk more money than the contractor’s bond — $12,000 for general contractors, $6,000 for specialty contractors.

Be careful with who you entrust to do work on your home.


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Article Source: Mid-Columbia Insurance Agency