In the months since the biggest disaster to strike the Peninsula in decades, law enforcement officials have worked to prevent San Bruno blast victims from being exploited.
On Tuesday, two men were charged with violating state contracting laws in the first such cases tied to rebuilding the affected San Bruno neighborhood.
Jason Pippin, 39, and William Warfield, 51, were snared in a joint investigation by San Mateo County prosecutors, the California Department of Insurance and the Contractors State License Board.
“We want to make sure that the residents in San Bruno who suffered through a horrible, tragic event are protected from further victimization,” Deputy District Attorney Sharon Henry said.
Pippin, a San Mateo resident, is facing a felony charge of contracting without a license in a disaster zone, along with two misdemeanors for advertising without a contractor’s license and lacking workers’ compensation insurance.
Prosecutors say Pippin replaced damaged windows on a house in the Crestmoor neighborhood Sept. 15, six days after the blast that killed eight people and destroyed three dozen homes. Pippin, the owner of Connell’s Glass Co., said he was in the area to see a friend and was flagged down by a man whose house had a broken window. He admitted his license had lapsed, but he said he and a friend who was with him fixed the man’s window for free.
He admitted the situation “looked really bad,” but said he wanted to help because he grew up in San Bruno. Investigators allege that Warfield, a Millbrae resident, was in the area Sept. 16 with his work van and an employee for whom he lacked workers’ compensation insurance. He was charged with a single misdemeanor.
Warfield said he was with his van in the area to help a friend move things into her house.
“I’m helping people up there, and then they say I’m trying to get work,” Warfield said. “That lady didn’t pay me a dime.”
Pippin faces up to three years in prison and Warfield faces a year in jail, Henry said. They were sent notices to appear in court Jan. 25.
The Contractors State License Board offers tips to help homeowners who hire contractors protect themselves:
Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see license
Verify contractor’s license by checking at www.cslb.ca.gov or calling (800) 321-2752
Do not rush into decisions or hire first contractor who comes along
Do not pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less
Do not pay cash or allow payments to get ahead of the work