By Cathy Locke
A man characterized by the California's Contractors State License Board as a notorious traveling con artist and two members of his extended family have pleaded no contest in Butte County Superior Court to multiple felony and misdemeanor counts related to a paving scam.
George Joseph Stanley (photo left below) and his cousins George and Kevin Snow (photos centr and right below) entered pleas Tuesday following a yearlong investigation by the Contractors State License Board and the Butte County District Attorney's Office.
The three men were arrested June 24, 2009 at a Chico motel by investigators from the CSLB's State Investigative Fraud Team, along with officers from the California Highway Patrol, Butte County District Attorney's Office and the Chico Police Department. While based at the motel, they are believed to have scammed at least a dozen home and business owners in Butte, Tehama and Glenn counties, according to a CSLB news release.
Officials said the operation uses professional looking equipment as part of a roving scam. They often claim to have left-over material that they will use to fix pot holes, or pave driveway and parking lots for a "good deal." Then they either do more work than initially agreed to or claim they need more material to finish the job and the "bargain rate" ends up being a rip-off, officials said.
In many cases, victims are out thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it but asphalt that they can pick apart with their hands, officials said.
In the Butte County case, Stanley, 30, of Moosup, Conn., pleaded to five felony counts of grand theft by false pretenses and one misdemeanor count of contracting without a license.
George Charles Snow, 20, of Salisbury, Mass., pleaded to four felony counts of grand theft by false pretenses and one misdemeanor count of contracting without a license.
Kevin Patrick Snow Jr., 22, also of Salisbury, Mass., pleaded to two felony counts of grand theft by false pretenses and one misdemeanor count of contracting without a license.
As part of the plea agreement, the three must post a bond for $130,000 by July 8 to guarantee full payment of the $130,000 by their sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 20. Failure to do so will negate the plea agreement and a trial date will be set, according to the news release. They also must pay the storage fees for paving equipment and other vehicles that were impounded as evidence in the case.
Stanley previously pleaded guilty or no contest for his involvement in 2008 paving scams in Tulare, San Joaquin and Yuba counties. He faces deadlines this month to pay $160,500 in restitution including $23,400 by July 12 in Tulare County, $102,000 by July 15 in San Joaquin County and $35,000 by July 16 to Yuba County.
Officials say Stanley and his cousins are believed to have operated throughout the continental United States and Hawaii for the past two years. Victims have identified the men in Colorado, Idaho, Pennsylvania and Washington.
"While these three are big operators, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to paving scams," CSLB Registrar Steve Sands said in the news release. "Consumers should never rush into a construction job just because they think they're getting a good deal or a special that day."
In California, any paving job or other home improvement project that totals $500 or more in materials and labor must be done by someone with a state license.
To avoid being conned the CSLB recommends that consumers:
- Ask to see the contractor's plastic pocket license card, and ask for photo identification to make sure it's the same person.
- Don't rush into repairs, no matter how badly they're needed or just because you'll et a "good deal" that day.
- Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. Solicitation of a down payment greater than this amount is a violation of the California Business and Professions Code. There is an exception for about two dozen contractors that purchase special bonds for consumer protection, and these exceptions are noted on the CSLB website.
- Get at least three bids, check references and get a written contract.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.