East Hawaii News

Hilo Man Facing Felonies for Posing as Building Contractor

April 8, 2014, 6:02 PM HST
* Updated April 8, 6:03 PM
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A Hilo man has become the first person on the Big Island to be charged under a law passed in 2012 that makes it a felony to falsely claim to be a licensed contractor.

Ricky Anthony Mesa, 37, has been accused of making that false claim while taking more than $30,000 from a 69-year-old Pahoa man to install a photovoltaic system.

Since the project involved an amount of more than $20,000, the charge is considered “unlicensed fraud in the first degree.” That is a Class B felony, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

According to a court affidavit, Mesa took on the job in November 2012 then cashed two checks totaling $30,232.

Because he allegedly failed to do the work, Mesa was also charged with felony theft.

Mesa, which the document said is a convicted felon, was charged with a third felony for presenting himself as a licensed contractor to a Hilo couple who hired him to do electrical, plumbing and drywall work.

That project was less than $20,000 in scope, which made that unlicensed fraud charge a class C felony, which carries a maximum prison term of five years and fine of $10,000. That work was apparently also not completed.

Mesa was arrested on an outstanding warrant on Thursday, April 3, and charged with the offenses the following day. His bail was set at $60,000.

However, when he made an initial appearance in District Court Monday he was allowed to go free on supervised release.

According to Deputy Prosecutor Shannon Kagawa, Mesa is the first person on the Big Island to be prosecuted under the 2012 law.

A preliminary hearing is set for Mesa on April 15.

The 2012 law is one of several in recent years tightening up regulations for contracting work.

During last year’s legislative session lawmakers passed a law aimed at those who take out building permits as owner-builders.

Act 176, which was signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie on June 26, 2013, requires owner-builders who hire others to work on the home to fulfill many of the roles assumed by contractors.

That includes hiring licensed subcontractors for the work or, if the workers are not licensed, deducting social security taxes and federal tax withholding from the workers’ pay, and providing them with workers’ compensation insurance.

Under the law, the owner-builder must maintain those deduction and insurance records for three years and produce them upon demand by the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

The penalty for violating the law is up to 50% of the value of the project according to the building permit, with the amount being up to the discretion of the department for the first offense. For a second offense, the fine is a flat 60% of the project’s cost.

Under Hawaii law, electrical and plumbing work must be done by appropriately licensed contractors regardless if it is an owner-builder project or being done by a general contractor.

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