Local contractor among most wanted

March 3, 2008 7:25:58 PM PST
A local painting contractor is wanted by the law, accused of bilking consumers out of their money. Our cameras were there when police tried to make an arrest.

Laws and regulations are often designed to protect consumers, but when those laws are ignored and consumers aren't always aware of their rights, bad things can happen.

Laura Armstrong lives in a nice two-story home in Oakland. She did what a lot of good consumers would do. Before hiring someone to paint her home, she checked out her contractor's portfolio, talked to his references, and she even had it written into the contract when the project would be completed.

She liked what she saw so she hired First Impressions Painting in Oakland and paid a $2,000 deposit.

"It was half the total price. It was a $4,000 contract. I gave him $2,000 up front," says Armstrong.

Regulations in California prohibit contractors from requiring down payments of more than 10-percent or $1,000, whichever is less.

Unfortunately, like a lot of other homeowners, Armstrong was not aware of the law, and she paid it.

Months went by, the deadline for the project's completion came and went, but little work got done. Then one day, a surprise.

"When I came home, I was surprised to see this part of my house painted," says Armstrong.

The area around her front door was painted. That was three months after she signed her contract. Nothing has been done in the three months since.

"I knew that if it took him three months to do this... I was just wondering how long my house would look like this before it got finished. Very disappointing," says Armstrong.

First Impressions continued to break its promise to complete the work, so Armstrong called 7 On Your Side. Just as with Armstrong, First Impressions ignored our calls.

We investigated the company and found that its contractor's license had been suspended by the state in 2004. Its owner, Khalid Wilson, also goes by the name of Khalid Muhammad. He's pictured in a magazine he publishes, First Impressions Home Improvement Guide. His address listed for both his magazine and painting company is actually a mail drop box in Oakland.

We uncovered numerous other complaints about his painting company.

"He's getting money from customers up front and then either returning and doing very little work or doing no work at all and just taking off with the money," says Rick Lopes with the Contractors State License Board.

The license board issued two arrest warrants for Wilson and just week added him to its most wanted list.

Officers also set up a sting at a home in Pinole. They called First Impressions to come out and give a bid. As soon as that bid was made, police moved in to arrest the two First Impressions employees who came .

Neither of the men turned out to be Wilson, so police let both go. Their sights remain on Wilson.

"He's got to keep looking over his shoulder because we're going to be behind him," says Lopes.

Meanwhile, we left Wilson a message informing him we would be running a story on him and his company. That same night, he called Armstrong and offered her a full refund.

"He promised to pay $250 a week. He promised to bring me Friday several post-dated checks for eight weeks because its $2,000," says Armstrong.

In the month since that promise, Wilson has only made one payment of $200. We'll continue to monitor this and let you know if Wilson ever gives Armstrong a complete refund or if he is ever arrested.

For tips on hiring a contractor, checking a contractors license and filing a complaint, visit the links below.