Worst Washington, D.C., Contractors of 2009
Jose Antonio Alvarado | Silver Spring, Md.
Montgomery County Police say Jose Antonio Alvarado did landscaping work for three years for Lila Meizell of Wheaton.
Then, in 2008, he altered a $75 check she wrote to him and cashed it for $7,500, according to Detective Lawrence Haley.
Fearing Meizell would find out about the check tampering, Alvarado and his cousin, Ramon Alvarado, beat the woman to death and burned down her house, according to Haley and court records.
Jose Alvarado pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Montgomery County Circuit Court in June. He was sentenced Dec. 22 to life in prison without possibility of parole.
His wife, Ana Rodas, pleaded guilty to accessory to murder in June and is awaiting sentencing.
Ramon Alvarado was found guilty at trial of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree arson. He was sentenced Nov. 23 to 30 years in prison for arson, and two consecutive life sentences for murder and conspiracy.
Bernard Frizner | Rockville, Md.
Montgomery County licensing authorities say handyman Bernard Frizner targeted elderly victims by taking money for projects but never doing the work.
In September, Frizner pleaded guilty to contracting without a license, failure to perform a contract and theft. He was sentenced in October to nine months in prison and ordered to pay $4,650 in restitution.
Frizner has appealed his sentence, but remains incarcerated, according to Montgomery County Consumer Protection Investigator John Creel.
One of his victims, a 79-year-old Silver Spring resident who asked that her name not be used because she was embarrassed about being cheated, says she was taken in by Frizner's charming demeanor and lost $550.
"He said, 'Oh, it looks like your front door and fence need work,'" she says. "I wrote him three checks for supplies, and when I started asking questions, he never came back."
Creel says elderly victims frequently don't want it publicly known that they've been ripped off. "They'll get scammed and never want to go to court or talk about it," he says.
— reporting by Paul F. P. Pogue