A man accused of posing as a licensed contractor and bilking a homeowner and day laborers out of thousands of dollars was arraigned on multiple felony counts Monday morning, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said.
Danny Ho, 52, was arrested last week and charged with four counts of grand theft, a count of misappropriation of construction funds, and a count of fraudulent use of another contractor’s license number, among other charges, prosecutors said.
Gascon, speaking at a news conference at the San Francisco Hall of Justice today, said Ho entered into a contract in February 2010 with a homeowner to remodel a home at 171 Lee Ave. in the city’s Ingleside neighborhood.
Ho gave the homeowner a business card with the license number and business name of another contractor who happened to have the same name, Gascon said.
After being paid about $32,000 by the homeowner, Ho allegedly abandoned the project and failed to pay wages to the three day laborers he had hired for the job, Gascon said.
Ho “represents the worst of the worst when it comes to unlicensed contractors,” said Rick Lopes of the California Contractor State License Board. “He’s not somebody out there to make a buck, his goal is to rip off people.”
The case was brought to the attention of the district attorney’s office by the nonprofit legal organization La Raza Centro Legal, which received the complaints from the day laborers, Gascon said.
The licensing board had also received a complaint about Ho’s work on the project and is familiar with him from similar previous incidents, according to Lopes.
Ho has previously served time in prison for another contractor fraud case and has been cited by the board on at least six occasions for various offenses, Lopes said.
He said the board encourages homeowners to check the licenses of contractors and to know the pertinent laws, particularly concerning down payments on projects.
Licensed contractors are only allowed to receive up to $1,000 before the job is finished.
Along with the more than $30,000 the victim paid in this case, repairs to the work already done will now cost an additional $95,000, Lopes said.
The day laborers are also each owed as much as $2,400, Gascon said.
“Wage theft is common and widespread, but immigrants, women and racial minorities are particularly hard-hit,” said Kate Hege, La Raza’s workers’ rights coordinating attorney.
Gascon said the case could be prosecuted due to the cooperation of the day laborers.
He said those workers are often hesitant to come forward, but “having people willing to testify is very important … we want these cases and we’re willing to prosecute these cases.”
Lopes said the issue of unlicensed contractors is “a huge problem in California” that has been exacerbated by the recent economic downturn.
He said the unlicensed contractors often underbid the legitimate ones, but are usually uninsured and can lead to other problems where “you’ll end up paying a lot more than you think.”
Contractor’s licenses can be checked at the board’s website at www.cslb.ca.gov.
Ho was arrested on Wednesday and arraigned today, Gascon said.
He is scheduled to return to court again on April 18.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News