Unlicensed Contractor Charged with Multiple Felonies and Misdemeanors Related to Defrauding Scheme
From the Office of the District Attorney:
Martinez, Calif. – The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office has filed felony and misdemeanor charges against an unlicensed contractor for defrauding multiple victims in Contra Costa County.
Forty one-year-old Modesto resident Adan Contreras Rivas is currently being held on $600,000 bail in the Martinez Detention Facility on 38 charges for financial elder abuse, theft by false pretense, theft with specified priors, and violations related to his fraudulent contracting practices. Since June 2022, Rivas has been under investigation since his initial offenses were reported by a victim in Walnut Creek. When authorities arrested Rivas in Morgan Hill on November 8th, he was operating under the name “Gutierrez Tree Services”— though he has used various business names like “New View Tree Care.”
Rivas is alleged to have posed as a licensed contractor in the landscaping and paver industry and taken thousands of dollars from unsuspecting consumers. Many of his victims tend to fit a particular profile: often elderly and residing in affluent neighborhoods in Walnut Creek and Concord. Investigators also believe there are additional victims in Contra Costa County, the South Bay, and the Central Valley.
Unlicensed contractors pose a threat to consumers by failing to acquire skills and licensure when hired to perform home improvement or construction projects. Some unlicensed contractors illegally require excessive down payments for construction or landscaping projects, and frequently fail to begin or complete projects once they receive money. Consumers are often unaware unlicensed contractors do not have completed background checks and usually do not carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees – which increases liability risks to consumers.
The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office has taken a proactive stance in protecting consumers in the county by partnering with multiple government agencies including the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and the California Department of Insurance (CDI). This partnership conducts undercover sting operations and investigations involving unlicensed contractors who fail to obtain workers’ compensation insurance.
California law requires contractors to be licensed in their chosen specialty and to obtain workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. Licensed Contractors are only allowed to request a down payment of $1,000 or 10% of the contract (whichever is less).
For more information on how you can protect yourself and verify a contractor’s license, go to cslb.ca.gov.