3OYS cameras catch 'storm chasers' in action

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

MESA, Ariz -- We’ve been warning homeowners for the past two weeks to be on the lookout for unscrupulous and unlicensed contractors going into neighborhoods and knocking on doors. With that in mind, state investigators hit a neighborhood to find those contractors and our 3 On Your Side cameras were there.

"I’m going to search by name of license," said Alex Figueroa, a state investigator with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. "We’re taking a proactive approach as everyone is aware at this point in time there was some flooding in the Mesa area. These people were victimized with their homes."

He's referring to the massive flooding the Valley had recently that wiped out neighborhoods and brought in contractors looking for a quick buck.  Now, it's up to Figueroa and his partner Randy Cason to find and expose those contractors. Cason said: "What we're doing right now is informing the property owners and the renters about non-licensed activities"

3 On Your Side tagged along with the investigators to see exactly what they would find. On their first stop the two came across a handyman doing some minor repairs, but as it turns out, Figueroa said those repairs were legal. "It was a $600 job, which is a handyman exemption, which is ok to do."

That's important to remember because any job or repair over $1,000 and contractors have to be licensed. However, their next stop was a different story. Our 3 On Your Side cameras are with the two as they come across unlicensed contractors doing work that they're not supposed to be doing. According to Figueroa: "The workers are leaving. I have issued a cease and desist verbally with him."

Their investigation reveals the men work for a company that's charging $3,800 to repair a home damaged by flood waters. The so-called storm chasers were ordered to pack up, given a verbal warning and sent on their way.  Cason said it’s exactly the kind of work state investigators are trying to stop. "The storm chasers will come in and if we can get a foothold in and let the community know and be aware of them, their activity slows down."

In this case, the owner of the business who employed the men got hit hard, Figueroa and Cason issued him a $2,500 ticket for contracting without a license. Figueroa added; "We want to promote quality construction with the licensed contractors in the state of Arizona; make sure that it's done right through a licensed contractor. And if there are any issues, these property owners have two years to file a complaint with that properly licensed contractor."

For more information about hiring contractors visit: www.azroc.gov/rocnews/releases/PR_8-4-14_Storm%20Response.pdf