Unlicensed contractor who scammed elderly couple and others give - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Unlicensed contractor who scammed elderly couple and others given year in jail

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Raul Casillas was sentenced to a year in jail and five years probation. Raul Casillas was sentenced to a year in jail and five years probation.

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A Chula Vista man who cheated at least five San Diego County residents - three of them elderly - out of thousands of dollars in a remodeling scam was sentenced Tuesday to a year in jail and five years probation.

Raul Casillas, 50, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of financial elder abuse, one felony count of using someone else's contractor's license and a misdemeanor count of not having his own contractor's license while performing work.

Judge Charles Gill suspended a prison term of five years and eight months, but warned the defendant that he'll land behind bars if he violates probation.

Shirley Inman, 86, told the judge that Casillas took advantage of her 81-year-old alcoholic husband by getting him to agree for work to be done on their eight rental properties, calling the defendant "lower than a snake."

Inman said Casillas used God to get the couple to give him money for work on their rentals.

The woman told the judge she worked 12 to 14-hour days shoveling barnyard manure in the heat of the Imperial Valley to earn money to buy property in San Diego, and Casillas "destroyed our home."

Casillas did give the couple a check today for $60,000 for work never completed on an empty lot, attorneys said in court.

Total restitution - to be determined later - could be more than $150,000, said Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood.

Greenwood successfully argued that Casillas be sentenced to a year in jail, and not in a work furlough program.

Quoting from a probation report, the prosecutor said Casillas pleaded guilty in 2005 to advertising as a contractor without a license in 2005 and pleaded guilty to contracting without a license in 2006 and 2008.

Defense attorney Brian Watkins said the case was not that unique.

"People often try to take advantage and save money by using unlicensed contractors, it's something that happens all the time," Watkins told reporters outside court.

Watkins said substantial work was performed on the Inmans' eight rental properties, the value of that work was in dispute.

Greenwood said Casillas was a "classic Jekyll and Hyde," on the one hand giving to his church and returning a wallet full of cash at a gym, and on the other hand stripping the life savings of elderly victims.

"When you go and represent yourself to be a licensed general contractor in California, and take money from an elder like that, and do not perform the work that he's representing he's qualified to perform, that's theft," the prosecutor told reporters.

Before hiring any contractors, elderly citizens should contact the Better Business Bureau, the Contractors State License Board and research the contractor they intend to hire, Greenwood said.

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