3 On Your Side

Homeowners say they were duped out of $160,000 by fake contractor

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Valerie Falkner and Mathew Bets hired an unlicensed, fake contractor and gave him $160,000. (Source: 3TV) Valerie Falkner and Mathew Bets hired an unlicensed, fake contractor and gave him $160,000. (Source: 3TV)
Falkner and Bets found out the little work Castaldi did do was shoddy and hazardous. (Source: 3TV) Falkner and Bets found out the little work Castaldi did do was shoddy and hazardous. (Source: 3TV)
A licensed contractor said Castaldi removed a weight bearing wall that supports the roof. (Source: 3TV) A licensed contractor said Castaldi removed a weight bearing wall that supports the roof. (Source: 3TV)

A Phoenix couple had big plans for their newly purchased home but a fake contractor spoiled their dream.

"We were really excited to see it because it's a mid-century modern architecture,” said homeowner Valerie Falkner. 

Falkner and Mathew Bets say they bought pretty much the perfect central Phoenix home. All it needed, they say, was a little TLC.

“We knew it needed a lot of work and we were going to turn it into our dream home in Arizona,” said Falkner.

The couple bought the house in August and immediately started plans to remodel.

And, that's when they came across an unlicensed, fake contractor named Michael Castaldi who runs a company called Reliant Architectural Interiors.

“We told him that our budget was about $150,000,” said Falkner. 

It's an amount that certainly got the attention of Castaldi because not long after being hired, he started gutting the house. At the same time, he was also asking for a lot of money so he could start ordering materials like cabinets, appliances and countertops.

“We wanted to trust him because we didn't know what we were doing,” said Bets. 

According to the couple, Castaldi did do some work to gain their confidence, like knocking down interior and exterior walls and he did do a couple of bathrooms.

And even though Castaldi was asking for more money, the couple realized all the items he reportedly ordered actually never showed up.

Why? Because he never used the money to order anything. So, Falkner and Bets started adding up all the money they had handed over.

“This point in January, when I finally figured everything out we had given him $160,000,” said Falkner. 

Finally, good 'ol Castaldi vanished and never returned, forcing the couple to hire an experienced, licensed contractor to finish his mess.

That's when Falkner and Bets found out the little work Castaldi did do was shoddy and hazardous.

For example, the fake contractor removed a weight bearing wall that supports the roof.

“It's important to us to address this right away because we're afraid the Bets family is at risk of this caving in on them,” said licensed contractor Marcos Serna of Vive Construction

3 On Your Side called and emailed Castaldi numerous times, but he never responded.

So, we went to his Scottsdale apartment. But even after leaving a business card, the fake contractor never contacted 3 On Your Side.

However, we did discover Castaldi has a colorful history.

He declared bankruptcy back in 2011 and in 2016 his wages were being garnished due to a $554,000 judgment against him. Falkner and Bets say Castaldi has really turned their lives upside down.

“It's been a nightmare, it's been an absolute nightmare,” said Falkner. 

The Arizona Registrar of Contractors is currently investigating Castaldi and his company. Bets and Falkner are working with that licensed contractor to get their house safe. If there's an update we'll let you know.  

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LiAna EnriquezLiAna Enriquez is a native of Arizona. She attended Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe, Arizona.

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LiAna Enriquez

She then went on to Arizona State University. She graduated summa cum laude from the University’s prestigious, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism with a degree in Journalism/Mass Communications with an emphasis in broadcasting.

LiAna started her news career with KTVK-TV as an intern. She loved it so much she never left! She has been with the station for fourteen years. Currently, she is the consumer investigative producer for Arizona’s top rated consumer segment, 3 On Your Side and is also a general assignment reporter. LiAna also reported for the station’s top rated high school sports show, ‘The Varsity Zone’ for five years.

In her free time LiAna enjoys cooking, watching movies, quading, and traveling. But her absolute favorite thing to do, is to hang out with her husband and beautiful daughters. She is a softball mom. She loves the beach and waterfalls! Her favorite team is the Arizona Cardinals and of course, the Sun Devils.

Life motto: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

If you have a story idea for LiAna, Send her an email .

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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

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Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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