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License to drill: Buyer beware — some Maricopa contractors don’t play by the rules

In 2021, Sorrento resident Elisa Olivarez wanted a new kitchen backsplash. She selected oyster white mosaic tiles and began looking for a contractor to install them.

Michael Scott Parker, head of Maricopa-based Copper State Home Renovations, was the right person for the job. He also gave her a crazy deal. He cut the price down by several dollars from her original estimate.

“He didn't have a license at the time,” Olivares recalled in an interview. Inmaricopa. “But he was working towards it.”

Three years later, he still hasn't gotten his license. He never was, according to the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.

basic rules
Unlicensed contractors can build successful careers in Arizona, but they must play by the rules or face criminal charges. The rules are very simple, he only has two. Jobs over $1,000 are prohibited and all advertisements must display the exact phrase “Not a licensed contractor.”

In analyzing Parker's website, business cards, and dozens of online ads, this important disclaimer never appeared. But what is clearly evident is his motto: “No job is too big or too small!”

A job costing more than $1,000 would certainly be too big for Parker. At least according to Arizona law.

That magic number must include both labor and materials costs, according to state law, even if the customer purchases the materials. The law also stipulates that work by unlicensed contractors must be “casual” or “minor.”

Parker has recently worked on projects including pouring a concrete slab for a patio and remodeling a bathroom. It's definitely not minor or casual.

Parker's sole proprietorship, Copper State Endeavors LLC, is listed as an “other” industry, according to the Arizona Corporation Commission. When we researched other contractors in Maricopa, we found that most were listed as “construction” or “handyman.”

My conversation with Parker ended at: Inmaricopa I asked if he knew his state's contractor laws.

background check
Obtaining a contractor's license in Arizona is very easy. That's probably why there are more than 45,000 active licenses in the state, according to AZROC.

All you need is an LLC, a $131 application fee, a successful background check, and a passing score on a test proving cursory experience in the field. Parker owns an LLC and has extensive experience. He probably has $131.

Where things start to get dicey is the background check. Parker's criminal history is longer than a CVS receipt.

Parker, 31, faced dozens of criminal charges in Texas and Arizona from 2012 to 2023.

In 2013, he was charged with three counts of injury to a child and pleaded guilty. The following year, at age 22, he was charged with three counts of sexual assault of a child.

In 2015, he failed to register as a sex offender for a 10-year period.

Parker was fined $99,000 for failing to appear in court multiple times, according to records from the 36th District Court in Denton, Texas.

He was arrested for illegal drug possession in Texas in 2017 and again in Arizona in 2022.

In Maricopa, he was charged in 2021 with criminal damage to property and fighting. He was then charged with resisting arrest in 2022. He missed court four more times from 2021 to 2023. In the same year, he received seven criminal charges for driving without insurance and operating a motor vehicle. Revoked license.

Parker has been convicted or found guilty nine times throughout his criminal career and was ordered to pay $261,000 in court costs and fines, according to court records in Texas and Arizona.

AZROC recommends that if the state's interest is in “protecting public safety over the rights of the person” obtaining a license, especially if the person is “likely to reoffend because of the crime,” a criminal record may be A person can be disqualified based on the following. It's better to have a license than not.

For example, working in a private home allows you to interact with children.

most wanted
Parker is not the only unlicensed contractor in Maricopa to flout the law. He's not even the most notorious person in town.

That honor goes to Donald Elliott Libby II, aka Donnie Noland, one of 20 people named AZROC's Most Wanted.

From 2013 to 2021, Libby was the subject of at least 18 contractor fraud investigations in Arizona, according to AZROC.

This scammer from Phoenix made a living scamming people in that city and the West Valley, except for one. It was the only crime he committed in Maricopa that put him on AZROC's Most Wanted list, according to previously unreported court documents.

Pinal County Superior Court issued the warrant in 2019 when Libby was wanted on charges of contracting without permission and failing to appear in court. The charges stem from an AZROC investigation that found Libby accepted $1,400 for granite countertop installation on the mobile marketplace OfferUp and never returned to begin work or deliver materials. is emitting.

That led to Libby's conviction on a felony theft charge committed “in or near Maricopa” the previous year, according to newly released case files in county court.

He was arrested in 2020 and sentenced to 18 months of probation. According to AZROC, the 59-year-old last year adopted a new business name: NLD Handyman. He still advertises his services in Maricopa.

Concerned residents launched last year as a public service warning about “Don the Con” and his 15 accomplices. The landing page is filled with videos, news articles, and court records.

fraud squad
While people like Parker have definitely not yet been arrested by law enforcement, many like Libby have been arrested in Maricopa for violating Arizona's contractor law. Ignoring state contractor laws appears to often result in more serious crimes.

Take Glenwild resident Cynthia Bueno Tapia, for example. She was charged in 2019 and 2020 with unauthorized contracting and felony counts of fraud and aggravated identity theft. She pleaded guilty to unauthorized contracting in a plea deal in 2022.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested Bueno Tapia in Pinal County in 2010 and accused him of creating fake driver's licenses for Mexican drug cartels. A court disposition of the case was not available.

Her husband, Miguel T. Tapia, was also charged with fraud and aggravated identity theft, pleading guilty in 2022 to contracting without a license. He faced further criminal charges in 2018, 2019 and 2020 for contracting without a license through his own company M&C. Landscaping.

After many twists and turns, the husband-and-wife duo formed a new company called Maricopa Setic Install LLC, and are now both licensed contractors, according to AZROC.

Another extreme case with even more dire consequences involves Gerardo Alonzo Avila, 62, of Maricopa. He embodies the phrase “once a fraud, always a fraud.” He was arrested by AZROC in 2013 for contracting without a license and was arrested again later. In 2015.

Just a few months later, he pleaded guilty to insurance fraud charges, served a year in state prison, and paid more than $10,000 in fines for falsely claiming Native American artifacts were stolen from his Maricopa home. Ta.

Avila tried to swindle Liberty Mutual out of $220,000, but his sordid home invasion story didn't pass the attorney general's sniff test. “It turns out those artifacts were never his, they were never stolen, and they were in fact on display at a local cultural heritage center,” then-AG Marc Brnovich said in a news release. mentioned in.

That's the Hufugam Heritage Center, located on State Route 347 just north of the city.

Buyer beware
Now, based on 3,000 case records from AZROC returned to InMaricopa through Freedom of Information Act requests, here are Maricopa's other AZROC violators from the past decade.

In 2023, AZROC arrested Fermin Valenzuela and Luis E. Vijaro for unauthorized contracting in Maricopa through their businesses Friends to Family Handyman Services and L&F Building and Remodeling. Accused. These businesses are based in Maricopa Meadows and continue to operate, although they remain unlicensed.

In 2022, AZROC accused Xavier Gonzalez of contracting without a permit in Maricopa through his Arizona Building and Remodeling business. Gonzalez has since obtained a contractor's license, which is in good standing and valid until June.

In 2022, AZROC indicted Andy Alvarado of Arizona Luxury Pools for contracting without a license in Maricopa. Alvarado does not yet have a license. ACC revoked the license of an Arizona luxury pool because it lacked valid legal representation.

In 2020, AZROC accused Turfcrete Landscape Construction and Jesus Levya of DN Concrete & Hardscapes of unauthorized advertising. He remains unlicensed.

In 2020, AZROC charged Mario A. Castillas of M&M Landscaping and Masonry with unauthorized contracting in Maricopa. He was later indicted three more times on similar charges in other Arizona cities. He remains unlicensed.

In 2019, AZROC indicted Manuel Fuentes of COPA Landscaping for unauthorized contracting and advertising in Maricopa. He remains unlicensed.

In 2019, AZROC charged Manuel Chavez of Prestige Landscaping in Maricopa with contracting without a permit. He currently has a valid license.

In 2016, Billy Joe Godwin of Just About Anything Floor Covering & Handyman Service in Maricopa was found to have violated Arizona's contractor law for the fifth time in Maricopa. He is still unlicensed.

In 2015, AZROC indicted Hector Machado of Machado's Custom Landscape for contracting without a license. He currently has a valid license.

In 2014, Zachary Gauvreau was charged with unauthorized contracting and pleaded guilty in Maricopa Municipal Court. His company, Distinct Desert Creations, went bankrupt soon after. He has never obtained a license.

Contracting without a license is punishable by six months in prison and a $4,575 fine. The minimum fine for a first offense is a fine of $1,830. However, contracting without a license often exposes you to more serious charges such as fraud and theft, both of which are felonies.

“Unauthorized contractors can endanger the public health, safety and welfare,” according to a statement from AZROC.

While there is a “handyman exemption” that allows small-scale work by people who identify as unlicensed, the language of the state law clearly prohibits doing work or even bidding on projects without a license. It is completely prohibited. The law does everything in its power to prevent unauthorized business practices.

Unlicensed contractors are not eligible for warranties or insurance. They may lack experience, use cheap materials or bring dangerous chemicals into the home, said Scottsdale criminal defense attorney Colby Canoes. It is said that there is.

“If a construction project goes awry, it can have a significant negative impact on public and personal safety,” Canose said. “Imagine an improperly constructed bridge or a high-rise building built on unstable foundations. Even building a house or renovating a kitchen can cost a lot of money if not done properly. This can pose a health and safety risk.”

Ann Inmaricopa In a poll last month, two out of three readers said they wouldn't hire a contractor if they knew it was unlicensed.

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