“This is community policing at its best.” That’s how Lt. Sol Linver, head of criminal investigations for the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department, described the case of Gilbert Lee Martinez, who was accused of taking money from clients without rendering services. According to a press statement from Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Drew Sugars, detectives arrested Martinez on July 9 in Arcadia, California, after looking into several reports from throughout the county that he took money up front for yard work that he never performed-often from elderly clients. Sugars went on to explain that area media’s reports of Martinez’s arrest brought forth more than 20 other victims who said that they too had been wronged.
On Tuesday, September 9, Martinez pled no contest to several counts to felony theft as well as a count of residential burglary. A judge in a Santa Maria courtroom ordered him to return the money he took from victims-approximately $50,000 altogether. Martinez has yet to face similar charges in San Luis Obispo and Riverside counties.
Sugars reminded area residents that contractors are legally prohibited from accepting more than ten percent of their payment before doing any work. Furthermore, he advised anyone hiring a contractor to make sure that the contractor is sufficiently insured, so that clients are not liable for any worker’s comp claims.