Khalid Wilson of First Impressions Painting in Oakland has been under the watchful eye of authorities since 2004. The law sent him a message: eight months in county jail and an order to repay his victims.
Bruce goldsmith of Oakland got burned. So did Adam Holbrook of Oakland and Laura Armstrong.
They are some of the more than one dozen who paid Khalid Wilson for paint jobs he never finished.
"He sold himself to us. He seemed honest, legitimate, reasonable," said Goldsmith.
Wilson asked each of them to pay half the bill up front. The law only allows him to collect a deposit of ten percent or one thousand dollars, whichever is less.
"That was something I did not know beforehand, that you're only supposed to give them ten percent," said Holbrook.
The Contractor State License Board set up a sting to capture Wilson. The sting netted others, but not Wilson.
"He's got to keep looking over his shoulder because we're going to be behind him," said Rick Lopes from the Contractors State License Board.
Authorities arrested Wilson a few months later on 13 felony counts.
On Wednesday, the judge sentenced Wilson to eight months in county jail and ordered him to pay $23,000 in restitution to his victims.
"Clearly people should know if they're out there defrauding people representing themselves as contractors, and taking money and diverting it to other uses, we certainly if we get those cases and they're properly investigated, and can prove it--we certainly will charge people and prosecute them to fullest extent of law," said Alameda County prosecutor Scott Patton.
This is not the first time Wilson's been in trouble. In 20o4, the state stripped him of his contractor's license for similar violations.
Prosecutors say he's continued to do paint jobs without a license, and even published this home improvement guide.
He managed to stay one step ahead of the law, until now.
"It was really upsetting to have him come out and defraud you like that. I felt like someone had come out and stolen money from us," said Holbrook.
His victims know now this was something they could have avoided.
"All I needed to do was call the State Contractor's License Board, find out his license was not in good standing and that would have tipped it off and I wouldn't be in the mess I'm in today," said Goldsmith.
One other suggestion, when asking for references, ask for the names and numbers of the contractors last three customers.