Special Report: Protect Yourself

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WESLACO - The state of Texas is on a manhunt for unlicensed electricians and A/C repairmen. The largest undercover sting operation in Texas took place in the Rio Grande Valley.

In the summer, Guadalupe Analise made a costly mistake.

“He just came and did the job, got his 700 and took off,” Analise said. The father of four hired a repairman named Luis Gonzales to fix his family’s broken A/C unit.

“He kept giving me the run around, run around, run around,” Analise said.

Two weeks after the repair, Analise’s A/C broke down. The work was guaranteed, but Gonzalez was nowhere to be found.

“A $700 job cost me an extra $2,200,” Analise said.

The Analise family isn’t the only one to be duped by a shady A/C repairman. The Valley is full of them.

“This is the largest sting that we have ever performed in the state of Texas,” said Susan Stanford from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).

Many so-called technicians advertise in the Valley. The TDLR is on a hunt. Agents are out to find any and all unlicensed electricians and A/C repairmen.

The TDLR granted CHANNEL 5 NEWS exclusive access. We went undercover at a restaurant in San Juan. Agents set out to hire as many questionable repairmen as possible.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS placed hidden camera all over the undercover sting location. We watched as repairmen took the paid.

Nearly 50 unlicensed electricians and A/C repairmen signed a contract for work with undercover agents. What they didn’t know was that they gave TDLR the right to fine them.

The first suspect’s Craigslist ad claims that he is a professional A/C repairman. No license number was listed. After signing a contract with undercover agents, we moved in.

The man admitted that he does not have a license. Little did he know, TDLR is able to give him with a $1,000 to $5,000 fine. Undercover agents told him he would be served with a court order. The man left the building.

Legal A/C repairmen in the state of Texas need to have their license number on the front quarter panel of their vehicle. The man’s van did not have these numbers.

Repairman after repairman signed job contracts with the TDLR over a period of three days. Investigators used to the TDLR website to see if the suspects were licensed.

Agents were able to discover that some of the repairmen had a history.

"He currently has a complaint open with the city of McAllen for not having a license,” an investigator said.

Repeat offenders are common in the Valley. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation said so, a repairman’s lack of experience poses big dangers to homeowners.

Shoddy electrical work can lead to power outages and house fires.

"There has not been a lot of municipal enforcement to date,” said a TDLR investigator.

TDLR said city and county code enforcement is not doing enough to stop unlicensed contractors.

On the last day of the sting, CHANNEL 5 NEWS ran into a familiar face. Luis Gonzales, who left the Analise family with a broken A/C, signed a contract with TDLR.

“Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law,” said Susan Stanford from TDLR. “It’s the law.”

The Analise family said they feel cheated out of $700. They said they feel like they got some justice. The repairman accused of ripping them off will now have to explain himself in front of a judge.

Protecting yourself from unlicensed contractors is easy. All you have to do is log onto the TDLR website, click on the search licensee tab, then type in the contractor’s name. If the person is licensed, you will be provided with a full history.
Link: TDLR Website