Criminal Charges Filed against WA Man in Scam
Tumwater, WA (WorkersCompensation.com) - An asphalt paver who went door to door in Snohomish County offering customers "a really good deal" now faces upset homeowners and criminal charges of failing to register as a contractor.
The Washington Attorney General has charged Michael Eugene Sparrow, 50, with eight counts of unregistered contracting. Sparrow also faces one count of doing business without workers' compensation insurance and three felony charges of false reporting by an employer.
Sparrow, whose last known address was in Marysville, is scheduled to appear on the charges on Feb. 5 in Snohomish County Superior Court.
The case results from a Department of Labor & Industries investigation that found more than eight homeowners hired Sparrow to grade or pave their driveways in 2012 in Marysville and Stanwood, according to charging papers. Most of the victims were senior citizens on fixed incomes, investigators said.
Sparrow approached most of the homeowners at their homes, saying he could give them a good deal because he already had paving materials on his truck from another job. Despite the promise of a bargain, however, several homeowners said Sparrow charged them far more than his original price quote.
A Stanwood property owner, for instance, said Sparrow offered to grade and spread gravel on his driveway for $750, then demanded $2,300 once his crew finished the job, charging papers said. The homeowner told an L&I investigator that he paid the higher price to avoid a confrontation, then noticed the driveway hadn't been graded.
In another case, a Marysville property owner who paid Sparrow $2,700 in full said the paver started the job, but never finished it, charging papers said.
L&I records show Sparrow was registered as a contractor in 1996, but that his registration expired in August 1999. State law requires construction contractors to register with L&I, and keep their registration current. If they employ workers, they must properly report their work hours and pay for workers' compensation insurance.
"Checking to see if a contractor is registered should be at the top of the to-do list for consumers," said Elizabeth Smith, L&I assistant director for Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards. "Unregistered contractors typically have no liability insurance, no bond, and pay no taxes, leaving consumers little recourse if there's a problem."