Unlicensed Contractor Sentenced to One Year in Jail for Wage Theft and Defrauding Homeowners

December 16, 2011

CONTACT: Stephanie Ong Stillman, (415) 553-1167 or (415) 740-5134
Omid Talai, (415) 553-9272

District Attorney George Gascón, State Contractor Licensing Board, La Raza Centro Legal and Chinese Progressive Association Urge Community to Report Wage Theft and Fraud

SAN FRANCISCO – District Attorney George Gascón announced today that Danny Ho, age 53 of San Francisco, was been sentenced to one year in county jail in connection with his theft of labor from workers and his misappropriation of money paid to him by San Francisco homeowners for remodel jobs. Ho was convicted of felony counts for grand theft of labor, fraudulently posing as a licensed contractor, and misappropriation of construction funds. Ho was also convicted of misdemeanor counts of contracting without a license, demanding an excessive downpayment, and failing to secure workers’ compensation insurance. Ho was ordered to pay $81,778.50 in restitution to the workers and to the homeowners whom he had defrauded.

“As District Attorney, I will protect innocent San Franciscans during these economic times,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón. “Defrauding homeowners and workers of their hard earned money is a crime and will be identified and prosecuted by my office. I encourage community members who have been victims of fraud or wage theft to report these crimes to our office, the Contractors State License Board,La Raza Centro Legal or Chinese Progressive Association.”

In February 2010, the defendant entered into a contract with a San Francisco homeowner to perform a remodel at 171 Lee Avenue – to convert an entertainment room into two bedrooms. The homeowner paid defendant over $30,000, but the defendant abandoned the project before completion and failed to pay wages to three workers on the project. Defendant, who was not a licensed contractor, gave the homeowner a business card with another’s contractor’s license number and business name – without the permission or knowledge of that contractor. Defendant also demanded from the homeowner a down payment in excess of legal limits and failed to secure workers compensation insurance.

In connection with another San Francisco job in November 2007, the defendant entered into a contract with the son and daughter-in-law of San Francisco homeowners to perform a remodel of a kitchen and bathroom at 3645 Ortega Street. The son of the homeowner paid Ho more than $30,000 for the job, including nearly $6,000 for appliances that Ho never delivered. Ho said that the job would be completed in thirty-five days but ultimately abandoned the job unfinished and failed to pay two workers on the project.

Defendant was placed on five-years probation. Among the conditions of his probation are that he obtain a contractor’s license and workers compensation insurance before he performs any contracting work and that he pay all of his workers in compliance with California Labor laws.

"This successful prosecution for consumer fraud, wage, and labor violations shows how the Contractors State License Board and San Francisco DA's office are serious about upholding state laws that protect homeowners, workers, and legitimate licensed and insured contractors," said CSLB Registrar Steve
Sands. "This case is the perfect example of why homeowners should spend a few minutes checking CSLB's website or toll-free number to assure any contractor they hire to work on their home has a license in the appropriate classification for the job and workers' compensation insurance."

La Raza Centro Legal also referred complaints to the District Attorney’s Office. The contractor fraud portion of the case was referred by the California Contractors State License Board (CLSB). Lt. Carlos Sanchez of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigations led the investigation of this case. Assistant District Attorney Max Peltz is the prosecutor.

“Danny Ho’s sentencing today is a reminder that California regards defrauding workers of their labor as larceny, punishable by time in jail. Intentional wage theft against low-wage workers is criminally culpable because it robs workers of the dignity and independence that comes with earning a living through a hard day’s work.” said Kate Hegé, La Raza Centro Legal Workers’ Rights Coordinating Attorney. “The San Francisco District Attorney’s prosecution and punishment of predatory wage thieves answers community organizations’ and workers’ call for protection against these crimes.”

The defendant was arrested on April 6, 2011. He pleaded guilty on November 23, 2011 before the Honorable Nancy Davis of the San Francisco Superior Court. He will be sentenced at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, December 16, 2011 in Department 9 of the Superior Court.
“Cases like these are only possible due to extraordinary courage of the workers, especially in this challenging economic climate where workers face greater employer retaliation. They are the unsung heroes of our city—the many low wage workers who speak up about labor violations, file labor claims, and organize their coworkers every day,” said Shaw San Liu, lead organizer with the Tenants Workers Center of Chinese Progressive Association. “We thank the City for partnering with community organizations to end wage theft and we encourage workers to come to La Raza or CPA for advice on wage theft and labor laws, or go directly to the city or state labor agency to file a complaint.”
The District Attorney, Contractors State License Board, La Raza Centro Legal and Chinese Progressive Association are encouraging the public to report potential fraud and wage theft.

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) protects consumers by licensing and regulating California's construction industry. http://www.cslb.ca.gov/

La Raza Centro Legal is a community-based legal organization dedicated to empowering Latino, immigrant, and low-income communities of San Francisco to advocate for their civil and human rights.

Founded in 1972, the Chinese Progressive Association educates, organizes and empowers the low income and working class immigrant Chinese community in San Francisco to build collective power with other oppressed communities to demand better living and working conditions and justice for all people.