Man arrested in contractor scam investigation

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - UPDATE: The Washoe County District Attorney's Office has arrested a man based on a warrant from the Nevada Contractors' Board.

Richard James Eaton was booked January 9, 2018 for obtaining money under false pretenses and contractor diverting money recieved. He bailed out shortly after being booked.

Eaton is the man accused of taking money after agreeing to do work for a Reno woman, then not doing the work and not returning phone calls.

ORIGINAL STORY: Spring 2017 found Donna Hawkins' fence at her northwest Reno home leaning, ready to come down. So, she went looking for contractors.

"The bids i got back in May and June said they'd be six to eight months out."

But one said he could do it very shortly.

She found him in the yellow pages, but had she looked online she would have seen a legitimate looking listing with examples of past work.

If she had looked on the Nevada State Contractors Board website she would have also seen a consumer alert out on him.

There were, by then, already six different criminal complaints registered against Able Fence LLC and the man she met Jim Eaton, who also, according to the NSCB, has gone by the name of Richard Eaton or James or Richard Errington.

The contractor's license for Able Fence is no longer active and there is none for Legacy Fence, the company he supposedly heads today.

He asked for a 50% deposit, then dropped his price and demand when she said she could not afford it.

They agreed to a $500 deposit and a contract was signed.

On the day work was to begin, he did not show up.

"August 14th, no show, no call. He actually answered the phone. He said he'd been in an auto accident. He had to deal with his insurance."

That was the last she talked with him. Her calls now go unanswered.

She went to the Contractors Board and learned of the alert, the investigation and the other victims. She got angry.

"I'm on a fixed income and I can't afford to be taken. If I'm going to donate my money I'd rather do it to a good cause, not to some fraudulent crook."

"She tried to do everything she could to begin with," says Mike Lyford, the NSCB criminal investigator who has the case. "There was a license number on the bid that he gave her. He presented himself as a contractor. the bid looked professional. The only thing to do after that is confirm that the license is actually valid."

The seven complaints against Eaton are still under investigation, but could lead to criminal charges, including a felony of obtaining money under false pretenses.

In the meantime, Hawkins wants to make sure others don't fall for this scam and she has a message for him.

"If you're a con artist, you know. Don't stay here in Nevada. Get out of town."

The six other complaints against Eaton follow the same pattern. Deposits are made. No work is done.

It is easy to check if you're dealing with a legitimate contractor. There's a list on the contractors board website. To reach it, click here.

Eaton mugshot courtesy Washoe County jail