Unlicensed contractors causing concern

By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ staff writer

Problems with unlicensed contractors in New Mexico have reached an all-time high, according to state officials.
It’s such a problem the state recently released a top 10 list of known unlicensed contractors, a first-time measure Construction Industries Division spokeswoman Charmaine Jackson-John said the agency took to crack down on violators.

“We want to send a message to those who have been illegally working for years without a contractor’s license,” Jackson-John said. “They know they are supposed to be licensed in New Mexico and, in some cases, they refuse to obtain that license.”

Kerre Petree of Clovis and Arthur Castillo of Portales are on the list.

Petree is charged with one count of fraud and six counts of contracting without a license, according to CID criminal detective Robert Dean Cooper. He said the charges are pending in district court.

“Mr. Petree has a number of civil cases against him, too,” Cooper said. “He called himself a handyman and is faced with a little over $7,000 in civil cases against him.”

Petree could face up to 18 months in jail for the felony count of fraud; 90 days in jail and/or fine up to $300 for the unlicensed contracting counts, which are charged as petty misdemeanors, Cooper said.

Castillo has been convicted of one count of fraud and three counts of unlicensed contracting with other charges pending, according to Cooper. He said Castillo has served jail time on the fraud charge, a felony count, but returned to unlicensed work when he was released.

Castillo paid fines on the other counts, which are petty misdemeanors, Cooper said.

Petree and Castillo could not be reached for comment.
Another measure taken by Gov. Bill Richardson’s office was to increase the number of CID criminal detectives from two to six in 2003.

Cooper said CID is also working with legislators to enact stricter penalties for the charge of unlicensed contracting. Currently all counts of unlicensed contracting are charged as a petty misdemeanors, he said.

“I can’t emphasize enough — don’t take someone’s word — make sure that they’re licensed,” Cooper said.

Ways to protect yourself from unlicensed contractors:
• Don’t hire the first contractor you meet
• Don’t rush into badly needed repairs
• Don’t pay cash or pay before the work is completed
• Get bids, check references and obtain a written contract
• Ask to see the contractor’s license — it’s small with a photo like a driver’s license
• Check the contractor’s license online at

Source: State Construction Industries Division