NC Licensing Board for General Contractors letting criminals, failed businessmen slip through

Updated: Oct. 30, 2019 at 6:08 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors isn’t completing background checks for every applicant. A WBTV investigation found two separate people provided false information on their application forms regarding bankruptcies and a criminal conviction but were still granted a general contractors license anyway.

Dozens of homeowners and subcontractors have lost tens of thousands of dollars after working with the two contractors whose licenses were granted despite the false information provided on their applications.

WBTV recently spoke with three different subcontractors who say they were stiffed by GJK Building and Remodeling. Combined the contractors are owed more than $70,000.

“I feel scammed,” Tyler Howe of Howe Electrical told WBTV.

“I don’t think I’d feel that way if I didn’t see a history of the same thing going on and on and on.”

WBTV found numerous lawsuits, tax liens and a bankruptcy filed by GJK owner Gary Knowles.

In 2003, Knowles pleaded guilty to falsifying loan documentation for the United States Department of Agriculture.

Even though it’s required, Knowles did not disclose the conviction or bankruptcy and his application or renewal form to the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors.

It’s the second contractor WBTV found to have presented inaccurate information to the licensing board.

The owner of Charlotte Fiberglass Swimming Pools, the late Gabriel Ortiz, did not disclose numerous lawsuits and a bankruptcy on his licensing board application.

“You would imagine that those kinds of things would be researched and looked into,” Kimberly Morrison of Morrison concrete said.

Morrison is owed $23,000 by GJK and has had to file liens on homeowners’ properties to try and secure her payment, even though the homeowners paid in full to GJK.

WBTV emailed the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors questions about their background check process.

Executive Director Frank Weisner wrote that the board doesn’t have the resources to background check every applicant.

“The Board receives approximately 29,000 applications (new and renewal) each year. Therefore, the Board does not have the staffing that would allow every response on each application to be independently verified,” Weisner wrote.

Weisner also claimed that state law does not allow the board to run background checks on contractors after their license is granted. The application form states that providing false information is a misdemeanor crime that could be punished by fines or even jail time.

“If the Board receives a complaint alleging that a licensed contractor lied on his application, the Board will investigate the complaint. If these allegations are confirmed, the Board will seek (and has on many occasions) to impose disciplinary action on the licensee,” Weisner wrote.

WBTV asked Weisner how many contractors have been disciplined for providing false information on their applications, but no response has been provided as of Wednesday evening.

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