Fake contractor runs from 3 On Your Side after taking $21,000 from consumer

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(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

A Scottsdale woman trying to improve her home’s curb appeal doled out a lot of money for a project. But in the end, the fake contractor she hired kept the $21,000 and vanished. So, she contacted 3 On Your Side to try and track him down. 3 On Your Side did, and that is where this story begins, after Gary Harper finds him. 

Gary Harper: "Mike Blanco, how are you, sir? I'd like to talk to you about Cheryl Maro."
As “Mike Blanco" rushes to get back into this car, Gary Harper says, “Where are you going, sir?"

His name is Mike Blanco, at least, that's just one of his names. 3 On Your Side has also learned he goes by a list of other names such as Mike Arana, Margarito Arana and Arana Margarito Blanco.

But 3 On Your Side wanted answers after Cheryl Maro says he ripped her off. 

“We paid him a little more than $21,000 and then he didn't complete the job. The job's unsound and he disappeared,” said Maro. 

Maro hired Blanco to totally remodel her front yard, which is a little different than most Valley yards because it's positioned on a slope.

“There were two different levels of stairs and we wanted to make all new hardscape, landscape, lighting and put in a patio.”

Maro says Blanco drew up all kinds of fancy drawings and said he could re-do Maro's yard for around $23,000. The two agreed and signed a contract, but that was back in November.

“There were times where he wouldn't show up for two weeks, or he'd come and he'd work for two hours and have an emergency and say he'd have to leave.”

Despite all his excuses and shoddy work, Maro says she shelled out around $21,000 to Blanco, almost the entire cost for the full project. And then, Blanco stopped showing up altogether.

“He just vanished, he just never came back.” 

And, as for the work he did do?

Well, Maro says the work speaks for itself: it's done wrong and it’s a safety hazard. There are huge gaps and gaping holes left behind. The stairs he put in are difficult to step on because they're not level at all. And she says he left all kinds of electrical and irrigation material exposed before disappearing

That’s when Maro contacted 3 On Your Side in hopes we would be able to get answers. and that's when we discovered Blanco lives in the east Valley.

We knew Blanco lived in this apartment complex because his work truck was parked there, so 3 On Your Side waited. And it didn’t take long for him to pull up in another one of his vehicles. But as soon as he sees 3 On Your Side’s Gary Harper, he takes off, without talking with us. 

Gary Harper: "This is how you operate? You take money and then you flee? Really? I think this speaks thousands of words when you run like this!”

Turns out, Blanco is a "fake contractor" because he's not licensed as required by law.

In fact, the Arizona Registrar of Contractors says it revoked his license a decade ago after numerous consumer complaints. 

Maro says she assumed he was licensed since she found him at the Maricopa County Home Show. 

“We felt pretty confident that anybody that was being represented there should be reputable,” said Maro. 

So, 3 On Your Side spoke to Katy Jones, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Home Shows/ She says they do have a vetting process. 

“When a client calls in to book for the home show, we determine right away, 'Are you a contractor doing installation work?' If the answer is yes, we require that licensing information on the phone prior to choosing a booth space and we look up that licensing information,” said Jones.  

But here's the problem. The home show says Blanco didn't register as a contractor and was able to get into the event by claiming to be a consultant, which doesn't need licensing.

"He was not honest with the consumer after the show. What he came into the show for was landscaping design and consultation work," said Jones.  

Maro says legitimate licensed contractors have looked at her yard and say it will take about $50,000 to tear everything out and start from scratch in order to do things properly.

“While I would truly love to recoup some of the money or all of it, that would be great. I don't really see that happening, but more than that, I don't want him to take advantage of anybody else,” says Maro. 

As for The Home Show, it says they do the best they can to vet their vendors but says it's important for consumers to do their own check as well. 

Not all vendors need to be licensed. If a construction project is under $1,000, state law says you don’t have to be licensed. If the construction project is over that amount, you do need to be licensed. 

Here’s a link to the Arizona Registrar of Contractors where you can check to see if a person or business is licensed. 
http://www.azroc.gov/roc/contractorsearch.html

RELATED STORIES:

Several homeowners say they were duped by fake contractor
Homeowners say they were duped out of $160,000 by fake contractor
Fake contractor gets prison for failing to complete repairs
Ex-con poses as real contractor; takes nearly $30K
Fake contractor accused of ripping off his neighbors 

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

Click to learn more about LiAna.

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.

Click to learn more about Gary.

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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