Landscaper depletes client's bank account


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Gordon Curry has been a widower now for several years. One thing his wife loved to do was plant flowers. So when a landscaper offered to do that for him, he said yes. But what happened next got the attention of state and local authorities.

Gordon Vurry's garden has gone through quite a transformation since last July. That's when Edilberto Heredia knocked on his door and offered to do some work.

"So we started talking about it and one thing led to another. He said why don't I introduce you to a waterfall and I said oh, I'd love that. He would suggest what should be done," said Curry.

And usually the 86-year-old would say yes.

Heredia put in a new retaining wall, he planted new trees, new plants and he put in a new stone walkway. But his daughters said Heredia often didn't get permission.

"He would just do it. He would just plant plants and build flower boxes without his permission. He would just go to town," said Carol Caceres.

Gordon says at the end of each day he would receive a bill and each time he wrote Heredia a check.

"Finally I said I just can't pay you anymore, because we ran out of money," said Curry.

His daughters showed 7 On Your Side a stack of invoices. They also sent us cancelled checks and credit card receipts. In all, gordon paid out $111,000.

He says all he has left is money in IRA's which he can't withdrawal without penalty.

Heredia owns a flower shop in Burlingame with his wife Maria. He declined repeated requests for an on camera interview, but told 7 On Your Side by phone he only did work approved by Gordon.

But the Hillsborough Building Department tells us there were several code violations and the required permit was not obtained. It ordered Heredia to stop all work on the project.

The State Contractors License Board says Heredia is unlicensed. State investigators visited the home after being contacted by both 7 On Your Side and the family.

Now the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office is charging the Heredias with operating without a license and collecting more than the maximum $1,000 in down payment that is allowed by law.

Prosecutors say Heredia collected 20 times more than allowed.

Curry partly blames himself for what happened.

"I could have stopped him at any point, but I didn't," said Curry.

"It's taking advantage of my father. He's a kind hearted man. He doesn't say no very easily," said Betsy Grotty from San Carlos.

Edilberto and Maria Heredia were arraigned in San Mateo County Superior Court on three misdemeanor counts. The defendants entered pleas of not guilty on all counts and a pretrial hearing is scheduled for august 25th. We'll be keeping you posted.

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