N4T Investigators: Arizona’s “Most Wanted” Unlicensed Entities
By Matthew Schwartz, News 4 Tucson KVOA
Since News 4 Tucson aired this story on Wed., Feb. 13, 2019, AZ ROC added Victor Omar Covarrubias, Jr. to the Most Wanted Unlicensed Entities and Unlicensed Violations list. Covarrubias, Jr. is wanted on charges filed by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office including Theft, a Class 5 Felony; Taking Identity of Another, a Class 4 Felony; and Contracting Without a License, a Class 1 Misdemeanor in the Maricopa County Superior Court. The charges stemmed from an AZ ROC investigation that found that Covarrubias took $2,000 from a 72 and 90 year old couple in Buckeye for a landscaping project that was never started. He is also wanted on several (3) Failures to Appear in justice courts from 2017 and 2018. All three cases stem from AZ ROC investigations.
TUCSON – Susan Via paid $5800 to a contractor who did almost no work on her east side horse property. He put in six unlevel footings the one day he showed up briefly and never returned. “I felt embarrassed, and I felt angry and cheated and upset,” Via said. She’s a retired federal prosecutor who researched people for a living.
Mariah Peru paid $1950 for granite countertops that were never installed by the guy she hired. “I’m extremely upset. Every day that I walk into my home and I can’t use my kitchen, and it’s very upsetting.” Peru got her money back, but only after we reported on the contractor who failed her.
Those homeowners are among many we’ve reported on who hired bad contractors. They’re usually unlicensed and initially come across as nice, smooth-talking salesmen. But after you pay them, they do little or no work, then vanish.
“Arizona’s a hotbed for nomadic organized crime,” Jeff Fleetham, Director of the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, told the News 4 Tucson Investigators at ROC headquarters in Phoenix. Fleetham said Arizona “is probably the number one state” for crooked contractors. “It’s warm in the winter, so people move here.”
The ROC recently issued an updated list of what it calls the state’s “Most Wanted” contractors. Warrants are out for four of them who are on the loose. If you know the whereabouts of any of them, the ROC says you should call law enforcement, do not try to apprehend them, Also call the ROC if you have any information about them, at 1-877-692-9762 (1-877-MY AZROC).
Here are the four most wanted contractors, according to the ROC:
Joseph Wharton II. The agency says the 31-year-old whose business was called “Joe’s Home Improvements” targets senior citizens, going door-to-door seeking work, using fake names for himself.
Brett Roberts. The ROC says the 53-year-old heating company owner abandons jobs after getting paid, a common scam among bad contractors.
Patrick Mike Callahan, 43. He’s accused of taking thousands of dollars in advance, failing to provide any of the materials and has allegedly also targeted seniors.
Robert Green, 38. The ROC says homeowners gave him more than $87,000 from 2014 to 2016, and that he did little or no work before disappearing. His business was called Desertscape Designs, LLC, according to the ROC.
Victor Omar Covarrubias, Jr., 45. He is being charged with theft, taking the identity of another, and contracting without a license. Officials say he took $2,000 from a couple in Buckeye for a landscaping project that was never started.
“It’s a quick way for some people to make some quick money and as soon as you give somebody a check, they could be gone.,” Fleetham said.
Before hiring a home contractor, the ROC says:
-Do your homework. Call the ROC or check its website to ensure the contractor is licensed.
-Get several estimates and ask for references.
-Avoid door-to-door solicitors offering low-cost construction services, and don’t pay with cash.
Fletham told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, “I find that sometimes people are doing more due diligence when they change their cell phone plan than when they sign a contract to do a 40-thousand dollar remodel.
There are 12 more contractors on the list, but they’ve all been found. Some of them are in prison.