News Release

Unregistered contractor using legit credentials from others to scam customers

February 10, 2022
#22-05

TUMWATER — The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is warning homeowners to beware of an unregistered contractor who’s accused of using legitimate contractors’ credentials to scam customers.

Antonio “Tony” Gonzalez, 39, has been cited for 10 infractions alleging he used other contractors’ registration numbers to get construction jobs that he never finished and, in many cases, didn’t even start.

Eleven customers have reported losing tens of thousands of dollars in deposits to Gonzalez, according to L&I construction compliance inspectors.

The victims range from the Tri-Cities region and Yakima to Seattle, Everett, and Olympia. Gonzalez’s last known addresses are in Wapato and Union Gap.

L&I has cited Gonzalez for a total of 30 civil infractions from last July through January — 13 for performing or offering to perform construction while unregistered,10 for falsely using another contractor’s registration, and seven for plumbing and electrical-related violations. The infractions carry fines totaling more than $110,000.

Many victims have filed reports with their local police. The Yakima County Prosecutor’s office is considering whether to file criminal charges in its jurisdiction.

50 percent down payments

Nearly all the victims whose cases L&I investigated found Gonzalez through Craigslist, the classified ad website. In most cases, he gave customers the registration number of a legitimate contractor, along with that business’s name or a similar name, according to L&I inspector statements.

But Gonzalez had customers write checks to his name, instead of to the construction business that he claimed was his. Since he generally required 50 percent down before starting work, customers in the L&I cases paid him $200 to $23,000 in deposits, depending on their project. For instance:

  • A Seattle woman wrote a $6,000 check to Gonzalez toward an attic remodel. He worked just one day, and dropped off a few pieces of lumber and electrical boxes.
  • A Richland couple paid Gonzalez $3,000 toward their bathroom remodel. A worker demolished drywall for a couple hours and Gonzalez showed up briefly one day, but neither ever returned. The wife and her husband, who is battling cancer, were left with an unfinished bathroom without a door.
  • A Yakima couple lost their $18,000 down payment to Gonzalez, who cashed their check then never even started to build their barn.
Deception caused problems for legitimate contractors, too

When Gonzalez wouldn’t return their calls, upset customers went to L&I’s website to find contact information for the contractor registration number he provided. They wound up talking to the contractors whose numbers were misused.

Some victims threatened legal action against the legitimate contractors until they learned that they, too, were victims of fraud.

L&I determined that Gonzalez used contractor registration numbers belonging to two active contractors and one inactive contractor, all of whom shared his last name. They had no idea who he was or that he was using their credentials.

The two actively registered contractors whose registration numbers were misused were:

  • Gonzalez Contractors LLC, in Everett, owned by Constantino Gonzalez.
  • Gonzalez & Sons Carpentry LLC, in Yakima, owned by Ernesto Gonzalez.

Both have cooperated with L&I inspectors, and informed the department when victims contacted them.

Seven victims reached Constantino Gonzalez, a registered painting contractor since 2009. He said he’s concerned that when potential customers search his name online, they’ll see complaints and incorrectly think he’s Antonio Gonzalez.

“It’s ruined my reputation that I worked so hard for 20-plus years to build up. It’s not easy to build a business being Hispanic,” said Ernesto Gonzalez, who’s been contacted by two victims.

“This guy just decided to pick up my information and drag it through the mud.”

Contractor registration requirements help consumers

State law requires construction contractors to register with L&I to protect consumers from fraud and abuse. The department verifies they have a bond, license, and liability insurance — requirements that give consumers financial recourse if something goes wrong.

A bond, for instance, represents funding set aside by the contractor’s insurer, and is available to consumers who obtain a court judgment against the contractor.

Consumers should always:

  • Get contractors’ business card or estimate with their name and contractor registration number.
  • Go to L&I’s ProtectMyHome.net or call 1-800-647-0982 to:
    • Verify contractor registration.
    • Get the owner’s name and phone number.
  • Call the listed phone number to confirm you are dealing with the legitimate owner or employee.
  • Get a well-written contract to ensure access to the contractor’s bond.
  • Never risk more money than the contractor’s bond — $12,000 for general contractors, $6,000 for specialty contractors.
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For media information:

Debby Abe, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-6043

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