SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The state agency that protects California consumers by licensing and regulating the state’s construction industry received more than 30 complaints about a San Diego County-based business.
A Team 10 investigation discovered some customers who said they signed a contract with American Pride Enterprises, paid thousands of dollars up front and were left with little or nothing.
The Contractors State License Board revoked American Pride Enterprises' license for non-compliance with an arbitration award in July of 2018.
An outdoor cover to block the sun was the final piece in what had been a total backyard transformation for the Zimmerman family.
“We were just looking to put a patio cover over our east-facing patio,” said Jim Zimmerman.
Zimmerman said in 2017 he hired American Pride Enterprises and its owner Stephen Hage to do the work.
He said there were no red flags. The company was licensed, bonded and at the time there were no real complaints online.
“We paid just under $2,200,” Zimmerman said. “That was to cover materials, and he was supposed to come back in three weeks and complete the job. That was the last time we ever saw Stephen Hage.”
Zimmerman told Team 10 Hage initially offered to pay the money back, but instead of getting a check Zimmerman got excuse after excuse about why the money hadn’t arrived.
Eventually, Zimmerman said the evasion tactics were too much and he sued Hage in smalls claims court.
Zimmerman says he got some of his money back.
A Team 10 investigation discovered Zimmerman isn't alone.
Team 10 was in court when several people who claim Hage swindled them reached an agreement with his bonding company, getting some of their money back.
James Francois said he paid Hage more than $5,000 for a patio.
“He never showed up, never delivered any material, never did an hour of work,” Francois told 10News.
Court documents show more than 20 names listed on the lawsuit filed by the bonding company, which seeks reimbursement from Hage.
A spokesperson for AmTrust told us, “This is a claim filed under a contractor’s license bond issued to our principal, American Pride Enterprises, by Wesco. Due to the claims we have received exceeding the aggregate $15,000 bond limit, we filed an interpleader (a way for a holder of property to initiate a suit between two or more claimants to the property) to pursue funds that would be distributed to the named consumers, assuming the principal does not resolve the claims that have been presented.”
Court documents show Hage filed for bankruptcy in July, and list his estimated liability around $700,000.
In bankruptcy people trying to get money can’t access the assets until the bankruptcy is resolved.
Team 10 tried to track down Hage, but no one answered the door at his listed address.
The Contractors State License Board told Team 10 through a spokesperson:
“We referred six of our cases to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office for their review and consideration of possible criminal charges against Mr. Hage, including Grand Theft and receiving excessive deposits. The cases were primarily for the company to build and install patio coverings. But, the company never followed through on any of the contracts. For the six victims we referred to the DA’s office, the excessive deposits ranged from $1,680 to $7,000. California law (BPC § 7159.5(a)(3) [leginfo.legislature.ca.gov] limits down payments to 10% of the contract price, or $1,000, whichever is less.”
The Contractors State License Board said people should have a clear idea of the work they want and the finished project before calling in the professionals.
Anyone performing home improvement work valued at $500 or more must be licensed by the Contractors State License Board.
The board shares these tips with consumers:
- Hire only licensed contractors.
- Get at least three bids and check references and recent projects.
- Check the contractor's license number.
- Ask to see the contractor’s pocket license and a current photo ID.
- Ask whether the contractor carries workers’ compensation insurance for employees and general liability insurance.
- Try searching your contractor’s name online for additional reviews, but consider the source.
- Make sure the contractor gives you an estimate in writing.
- Pay no more than 10 percent for a down payment.