IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. — An Imperial Beach man who’s done time behind bars for grand theft that left families homeless is now accused of leaving renovations he was paid tens of thousands of dollars to do unfinished.
‘Dan the man’ advertises himself as “the plumber man” for Imperial Beach on Craigslist where he says he’s available 24/7 for any plumbing problem.
Sonia Mayorga said she hired Daniel Uriarte in June after meeting him at a karaoke event.
“I kind of mentioned that I had a water leak. And he says, ‘Oh, I'm a plumber’ … and I'll give you a really good deal because he’s supposed to be somebody we know.”
Uriarte was the subject of a 2019 Team 10 investigation that led to his arrest. That year, according to court records, he took thousands of dollars from families in rental deposits for an apartment he didn’t own.
Victims were left homeless and had to sleep in their cars, according to a 2020 statement of facts.
He was charged with 26 felonies and pleaded guilty to four counts of grand theft of personal property. He was sentenced to four years behind bars.
Mayorga said she needed her leak outside her home fixed and a cast iron pipe underneath her property replaced.
The Imperial Beach resident ended up paying Uriarte over $8,000, but she claims he only changed part of the cast iron piping and dug an unnecessary trench near where the leak was.
Team 10 reviewed an invoice in the amount of $8,908.90 sent from Uriarte to Mayorga.
In it, he claims he changed a copper pipe and replaced 40 feet of cast iron piping to ensure proper drainage.
“There was no need for all the trenching and all the damage and all the mess he made,” Mayorga said.
Court records obtained by Team 10 show Uriarte was charged in January of this year with three new misdemeanors for contracting without a license, improper home improvement contract procedures and failing to secure payment of compensation. The charges are not related to the allegations from Mayorga and her sister.
The Contractors State License Board confirmed that Uriarte is not a licensed contractor when contacted by Team 10.
“Since he is unlicensed, he is not allowed to charge above the legal $500 threshold,” Natalie Watmore, a spokesperson for the Contractors State License Board said.
Watmore added first-conviction penalties for contracting without a license and charging consumers over the legal amount could result in up to six months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
Lawsuit alleges contractor said he was licensed
In addition to the criminal charges he’s facing, Uriarte is being sued for $28,850 by a couple in San Ysidro, who allege they hired him to do renovations that weren’t finished.
In the lawsuit filed last June, the couple allege parts of their project weren’t completed while work that was done was defective or unpermitted and materials were never delivered.
Uriarte also damaged the couple’s fence by driving an excavator into it, the lawsuit alleges.
The couple claims in court documents that Uriarte and his wife told the couple he worked for a contracting company and could complete their project for less than what other contractors quoted.
“Plaintiffs asked whether Defendant Uriarte was licensed, and Defendants said that his company was,” the couple alleges in the lawsuit.
Mayorga said at first, she didn’t realize anything was wrong and referred Uriarte to her sister, who needed a contractor.
Maria Gonzales said she hired Uriarte to fix a leak in the bathroom at her San Diego rental home and to do some small jobs at her Imperial Beach residence.
She said she paid him $2,315 total for the work, but two days later the leak remained in the bathroom, so she phoned him back asking why it wasn’t fixed.
Gonzales said Uriarte claimed he would return to fix the leak “but then he told me he was going to jackhammer everything down.”
Gonzales said she hired Uriarte to connect a water line to her fridge and new dishwasher at her Imperial Beach home. Both worked well after he connected them.
But Gonzales said Uriarte left a hole in her new counter she claims he said was needed for the garbage disposal.
“And now, my garbage disposal is not working. And I still have the hole there.”
Gonzales said she was able to get back $900 from Uriarte. But she is angry she has the hole in her counter and doesn’t feel she should’ve had to pay $1,415 for the rest of the work she alleges is incomplete. She said he never fixed the bathroom leak she hired him for.
“I'm really upset because I asked him, I go, ‘You are a plumber, right?’ He goes, ‘Of course I am.’”
Contractor defends work, will face jury
Team 10 called Uriarte and asked him about the work he did for Mayorga and her sister.
“I didn't do anything bad, to be honest,” he told Team 10 investigator Austin Grabish.
Uriarte told us he fixed Mayorga’s plumbing at a discounted rate. “I tried to help her out,” he said.
Uriarte said he’s been waiting for a part for the garbage disposal at Gonzales’s house and that she didn’t want him back at her property. She denies this.
When asked about the couple from San Ysidro, who are suing Uriarte, he said, “We’re going to court for that so that’s irrelevant to what you’re telling me.”
Uriarte is set to appear before a jury trial on the three new misdemeanor charges in January.
He could be sentenced to up to three years in jail if he is convicted of the charges but maintains he’s done nothing wrong.
Team 10 Investigative Reporter Austin Grabish can be reached by email at email@example.com