Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Contractor Confusion
After all we've been through since Katrina and Wilma, most of us know not to hire an unlicensed contractor. But now, a new trick is being used to confuse homeowners. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is "on the case".
WSVN--These pictures show an electrical repair job so bad, the homeowner was forced to live in a corner of the house after the ceiling was torn out.
Authorities say the botched job is the work of an an unlicensed electrician who mislead the owner of the house by saying he worked for a licensed company.
Carmel Cafiero: "And does it turn out that he knows what he is doing?"
Dan Sriro: "He has not a clue."
Investigator Dan Sriro says this man - Byron Parris is responsible for the unfinished work.
Earlier this year Seven News was there when Parris was nabbed in a sting set up by Miami-Dade Police and building officials.
He was arrested once police determined he had no license and no authority to wear the shirt of a licensed electrical company. A company owned by Gregg Stevenson.
Gregg Stevenson: "He has no right to do it. I haven't given him authorization to do that."
Stevenson says Parris is a former employee.
As a worker he didn't need a license.
But now he's no longer authorized to do work under Stevenson's license.
Gregg Stevenson: "And also I've seen him on the streets with my shirt and going around and I tell him - hey - what are you doing."
What Perris is doing now is facing criminal charges.
Prosecutor: "With one count of grand theft in the second degree and one count of contracting without a license - a misdemeanor in the first degree."
The charges are in addition to his arrest in the undercover sting.
Judge David Young: "Are you working yet Mr. Perris?"
Byron Perris: "No your honor. Not yet."
Judge David Young set a court date for the end of August.
Perris had little to say after his appearance.
Byron Perris: "You know I'm not supposed to talk to you so don't ask me any questions."
Carmel Cafiero: "So why do you keep using the name Stevenson?"
Byron Perris: "You know I really like you but you ought to get your facts straight ok?"
Authorities say any kind of unlicensed contractor can cause problems for homeowners - but electrical contracting is especially serious.
Dan Sriro: "You're dealing with the fact that you may burn down somebody's house and somebody may be in that house when it burns down."
And today the number of contractor complaints is sky high.
Herminio Gonzalez: "We've had an increase of over 214 per cent compared to last year in complaints."
Herminio Gonzalez - director of Miami Dade Building Code Compliance - says increasingly unlicensed contractors are using the names - the license numbers and the reputations of legitimate companies.
Herminio Gonzalez: "The situation that we have now is a desperate situation and the bad people know about it."
And authorities say the bad guys know every trick in the book.
Dan Sriro: "Because they can you know open a phone book and make a card with a license number on it."
Carmel Cafiero: "So what's a homeowner to do? These days contractor research has to be kicked up a notch. First - call the county or state to make sure the company is licensed. And then call the office number listed with the government or in the phone book to make sure you are dealing with an authorized representative.
If You Have A Story For Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE