Family says Arizona Registrar of Contractors failed to act after contractor left them high and dry

A Phoenix family says a contractor took their money but never finished it, and now the AZ licensing agency for contractors refuses to take any action.
Updated: Nov. 9, 2023 at 6:00 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Ruth Canidate remembers the good and bad times, raising five children in her central Phoenix home. But those memories are overshadowed by the condition of the home today.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Ruth. “This looks like a mess. That’s what it looks like,” said Jimmie Canidate, one of Ruth’s sons.

Three years ago, a water leak caused damage to the home. Ruth’s insurance company paid the claim, and she says a public adjuster recommended she hire a contractor named Carlos. Arizona’s Family Investigates is withholding Carlos’ last name because, at this point, he has not been charged with a crime.

“He had his license. He had everything,” said Ruth. She says Carlos told her he worked for a company based in Texas called Frontera Construction. Carlos was featured on Frontera’s website and identified as a “lead superintendent” in Arizona. Ruth says she even called the Arizona Registrar of Contractors to check on the status of Frontera’s license.

The Canidate family says Carlos took their money and did not finish the job. They say much of his crew’s work was not what they asked for. Their home now has unfinished cement floors, the wall frames are all exposed, and the plumbing and electrical work is incomplete. The home is uninhabitable. “We’re trying to get her back into her house so she can enjoy her years,” said Jimmie.

Arizona’s Family Investigates reached out to Frontera Construction. The company president, Greg Voss, told us that Carlos “has never been an employee of our company. We have hired him as an independent subcontractor in the past on a couple of our commercial projects, but he has never been affiliated with our company outside of that relationship.

When we asked about the website, Voss stated that the website was just for “marketing purposes.” And that Frontera has its “own issues to deal with, as far as Carlos.”

The Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC) can order contractors to fix unfinished or shoddy work and award money to unscrupulous contractors’ victims. When asked for comment, Cindy Casaus, the assistant director for ROC, said that her agency forwarded the case involving Carlos to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office with recommended charges of contracting without a license. Arizona’s Family Investigates asked Casaus in a follow-up message why Ruth Canidate was not entitled to restitution from the ROC and why her agency was not going after Frontera Construction. Casaus did not respond.

“The Registrar of Contractors, in 35 years of practicing law in Arizona, has not done anything beneficial in any case I’ve ever dealt with,” said Joe Watkins, an attorney who routinely deals with contractors but is not involved in this case.

Over the phone, Carlos blamed the Canidates. He said they changed their minds about the work several times and were difficult to work with. He said the work he and his crews did was solid and worth more than the $75 thousand they paid him. He also denied that he claimed he worked for Frontera Construction.

The Canidates showed us emails from Carlos from a Frontera email account and a Frontera business card with Carlos’ name on it, and they shared a covert recording made when the family was discussing the project with Carlos.

Ruth Canidate: “What is the name of your company?”

A voice responds: “Frontera.”

“It makes me feel like our system is a failure. It’s a failure to the consumers,” said Ruth.

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