ONLY ON ABC7NEWS.COM: Contractor operating under borrowed license accused of taking advantage of 77-year-old Berkeley man

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip KGO logo
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
EXCLUSIVE: Unlicensed contractor accused of taking advantage of 77-year-old Berkeley man
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A 77-year-old Berkeley man paid a contractor almost twice the agreed amounts. Upon investigation, the contractor was found to be operating under a borrowed license the entire time.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- State investigators are calling on the Alameda County District Attorney's office to take action against an unlicensed contractor over accusations of taking advantage of a 77-year-old Berkeley man. It's a story you'll see only on ABC7 News.

7 On Your Side first brought this case to the attention of authorities seven months ago. State regulators tell us this case is an example of a breakdown of a regulation which allows unlicensed contractors to work under the supervision of someone who does have a license. Regulators warn that when the person who's supposed to do the supervising doesn't supervise, things like this can happen.

LaVan Patton of Berkeley says his troubles started when he hired someone to fix his garage and repair his roof. The 77-year-old said he hired I.L. Global after being contacted by the company unsolicited.

"I wanted to do some repairs on this garage here. The roof was leaking. I wanted to repair that and they needed a new garage door," said Patton.

Patton says he signed this contract for $10,895 back in July of last year. In the coming months, he said people kept asking him for more money. Before he knew it, the checks he wrote totaled $19,550 dollars. That's $9,055 more than the contract called for.

Patton said of the contractor, "He kept bugging me to pay him and so I just went on and paid him."

His stepdaughter, Ginger Huey, found out about what was happening and put a stop to it.

"I just think he was really gullible and really wanted the job done. He just kept giving him checks. It's just really hard to explain," she said.

Huey contacted 7 On Your Side and we brought this case to the attention of the Contractors State License Board.

"They had a contract for a certain amount of money and paid upwards of double that amount. There were concerns about workmanship too," said Rick Lopes of the Contractors State License Board.

State records show I.L. Global was run out of a home in San Rafael by Paul Besenty, who had a contractor's license with the state. He agreed to talk to 7 On Your Side only if we didn't videotape his face.

"I'm very sorry for the stuff's that's happened to him. If it was up to me, I would have never let it happen. I wish there was something I could do, but I just don't have the money or the physical ability to do it. I'm very sorry," stated Besenty.

Besenty had answered an ad in Craigslist from Josef Lubovich of I.L. Global, requesting that a licensed contractor allow him to work under his or her license. Lubovich agreed to pay Besenty $1,000 a month for that right, with Besenty responsible for supervising the work that Lubovich did. Besenty became the "Responsible Managing Officer" of the company or an RMO.

The state says unfortunately many RMOs fail to provide the proper oversight of the company they agree to manage.

"It is an area of concern for us and it's something that we're always looking for ways to address and try to deal when we can identify these qualifiers who are actually qualifiers in name but actually aren't involved in the running of the company," Rick Lopes tells us.

Besenty has voluntarily agreed to give up his license and sever his relationship with Lubovich. He blames a fall from a roof for not providing the proper supervision.

The Contractors State License Board accuses Lubovich of nine violations for the completed work, including exceeding the contracted amount, willful or fraudulent act and failure to timely pay his subcontractors.

Lubovich told us by email that Patton requested lots of changes. "We did what we obliged to do and more. No overpayments made. An agreement has been adjusted the moment more issues have been discovered."

LaVan Patton disputes that. "They more or less talked me into it because I have a contractor I usually go to."

The Alameda County District Attorney's office is expected to make its decision on whether to take further action in one to two months.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.