4OYS: Would-be contractors face criminal charges

Posted at: 07/24/2014 10:04 PM
Updated at: 07/25/2014 10:49 AM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The would-be contractors who ripped off at least half a dozen families, for collectively tens of thousands of dollars, will end up in custody.

State regulators in the Construction Industries Division, or CID, filed misdemeanor criminal complaints against Ronnie Sampson and Jason Lutz for doing contracting work without a license.

Most recently, the men have been tied to a company called New Mexico Air and Solar Consultants.

"It looks like deception 101," Mike Unthank, Superintendent of New Mexico's Regulation and Licensing Department said on Thursday.

He said the growing case against the men is now a "high priority" in the wake of an on-going 4 On Your Side investigation, which identified three families who paid for work that was either illegal, incomplete, or never begun.

Unthank said 22 families have filed complaints against Lutz and Sampson so far.

"We think there will probably be more to come," he said. "It's just a real tragedy."

In one case, Manny Gonzalez in Rio Rancho paid nearly $25,000 for solar panels several months ago.  New Mexico Air and Solar never installed them.  Gonzalez's on-going attempts to get a refund from the company have been unsuccessful.

"I'll never see a dime of this money," he said.  "Now we have this tremendous amount of debt and nothing to show for it."

Unthank said CID investigators only have the power to file misdemeanor charges.  He said they're referring the case to the District Attorney's office, which could file more serious charges.

If convicted of the misdemeanor charges, the punishment would vary for each job.  On contracting work valued at $5,000 or less, Lutz and Sampson could spend up to 90 days in jail and pay up to a $500 fine.  For work valued greater than $5,000, the men could spend up to six months in jail and pay a fine up to ten-percent of the job's worth.