Monterey Residents Face Criminal Charges for Fraudulently Using Contractor License Numbers
Suspects using business names "Window Design" and "Fresh Paint" arraigned on 146 counts
SACRAMENTO —Daniel Kenneth Furness, 58, and Colleen Gsell, 55, pleaded not guilty in Monterey County Superior Court on January 10, 2011, to 146 criminal charges relating to fraudulent use of other contractors’ license numbers, and adverting and contracting without their own license. The charges were filed following an investigation by the Contractors State License Board’s (CSLB) Central Valley Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, and the Monterey and Marina Police Departments.
Furness and Gsell are suspected of using contractor license numbers not held by them, instead of obtaining their own licenses from the Contractors State License Board. For example, they allegedly used license numbers belonging to other people whose business names are “Window Design” and “Fresh Paint.” Furness and Gsell have not been issued a contractor license in either of their individual names, or a license to do business in the name of a company.
"We encourage homeowners to check their contractor’s license number on the CSLB website before any work is done," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Consumers should ask to see the state-issued pocket license and a photo identification to make sure the person they are dealing with is the person who holds the contractor license in the appropriate work classification."
Furness and Gsell are also suspected of illegal advertising and taking excessive down payments. Contractors must display their license number when advertising for jobs valued at more than $500 for labor and materials. It is also illegal to take down payments greater than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, for any home improvement project. There is an exception for about two dozen contractors who purchase special consumer protection bonds and are noted on CSLB’s website.
Even though a consumer is not legally responsible for payments to an unlicensed contractor for projects valued at $500 or more for labor and materials, Furness is charged with instituting litigation against a deceased client’s estate and making inaccurate statements in a claim of lien filed against this client’s property. A licensed contractor or material supplier is entitled to file a mechanic’s lien if the contract amount is not paid as stated in the signed contract. An unlicensed operator who has contracted for work valued at more than $500 for labor and materials has no legal standing to do so. Furness is also charged with committing perjury in an application filed with CSLB.
Furness is formally charged with three counts of perjury and three counts of filing a false document. Furness and Gsell are each charged with 54 counts of illegal use of a contractor license number not issued to them; 42 counts of contracting without a contractor license; 23 counts of illegal advertising; and 21 counts of charging an excessive down payment.
"Those contracting without a license should understand that CSLB and its partners in law enforcement will not tolerate behavior that is detrimental to homeowners and licensed contractors who are complying with state laws and regulations," added Sands.
Anyone who has information regarding these individuals should contact CSLB Investigator David Leary at (831) 620-1374 or Monterey County District Attorney Investigator Anne Lopez at (831) 233-1877.
CSLB urges all California consumers to follow these tips before hiring a home improvement contractor:
- Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door.
- Verify the contractor's license online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or via CSLB’s automated phone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
- Ask to see a photo identification to verify the contractor’s identity.
- Don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. There is an exception to this rule for about two dozen contractors who purchase special bonds and are noted on CSLB’s website.
- Don't pay in cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Get at least three bids and insist on a written contract before your project begins.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on the CSLB website or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). You can also sign up for CSLB e-mail alerts at www.cslb.ca.gov, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. CSLB licenses and regulates California's more than 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2009-10, CSLB helped recover nearly $42 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
Sign Up For News Release Email Alerts
Please type in your email below and click submit.