SUN CITY, AZ - We've done story after story about unlicensed contractors duping customers into pay lots of money for uncompleted or sub-standard work.
Last year we learned about Juarez Design . The Registrar of Contractors says Ana and Hugo Juarez own the company and have been working illegally in Sun City for years. Lynne Marion says she was one of their victims.
"In the bathroom, the toilet leaks, the vanity leaks," she said. "The master bathroom is half painted, the concrete on the driveway, the coating is black, no matter how much I wash it; the paint in the garage is peeling."
Marion says she lost a total of more than $42,000.
Months later, we got a similar story from Valley resident, Judy.
She asked us not to use her last name, but says she hired the Juarez's to remodel her back yard. Except now the company had a different name on their business card, Valle Del Sol. They are listed with the Secretary of State's Office as Landscaping by Valle Del Sol.
Judy says she agreed to pay $14,500 for them to add a pit fire, a barbecue island and flagstone for her backyard. She paid several thousand early on, but decided to hold the rest until completion.
At first everything seemed to be going well, then she says she didn't hear from them for weeks.
"I started to get worried," said Judy
Then she says she started to notice poor workmanship.
"This is already cracking," she explained about stucco on her new barbecue island. "The crack is getting bigger and bigger."
That's when she started digging and found out the company she hired was not licensed to do the work in the first place.
"I just feel betrayed" said Judy. "You know that this sweet lady could do this to somebody."
The Registrar of Contractors (ROC) has at least 23 complaints on file against this company, totaling more than $100,000 contracted. Over the years, the ROC has fined Juarez Design a total of $8,500 for unlicensed contracting.
"Juarez Design, Ana Juarez, Rafaela Juarez, going by many different names, also working with someone named Hugo Juarez," said Tyler Palmer, Chief of Staff for the ROC.
"We've got a lot of different names and they've been on our radar for many years," he said.
He said the ROC has submitted multiple cases against them to court for advertising and contracting without a license dating back to 2009.
But, filing misdemeanor charges and issuing civil fines is as far as the ROC can go.
According to County Attorney Bill Montgomery, some just consider the fines, just another cost of doing business.
"The maximum fine is $2500. Six months in jail." said Montgomery. "I hardly ever see anybody go to jail."
His office handles unlicensed contracting cases that are turned over by the ROC but says current penalties aren't enough of a deterrent for some repeat offenders.
"We want to be able to hold them accountable and impose a stiff enough penalty that addresses their criminal conduct," explained Montgomery.
In order to do that, the legislature would have to make it a felony for unlicensed contractors to do business. Which could mean an increase in fines up to $100,000 and 2.5 years in jail.
So what can you do?
First, if you or your neighbors have been victimized by unlicensed contractors, file a complaint with the Registrar of Contractors .
Then let your state legislator know that a slap on the wrist for bad actors just isn't working.
Each year thousands of dollars are lost to these unlicensed businesses and there need to be real consequences for the real damage they do.
Check to see which legislative district you're in here .
Then find out how to contact your legislator here .
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