Contractors' panel seeks man in scam

A Stockton man is being sought by the California Contractors State License Board for what state officials say is a pattern of performing unlicensed work and taking money without doing any work.

According to a board news release, Michael Lou Fano, 46, is accused of stealing $250,000 from homeowners in Manteca, Tracy and other San Joaquin County cities this year.

Fano, who the board believes might be part of a group committing contractor fraud, is suspected of using a particular scam aimed at homeowners, an entire neighborhood at a time.

According to the board, Fano and his unidentified associates perform contracting work -- ranging from concrete to landscaping -- on one home, then use that job to solicit jobs from neighbors.

The group then takes down payments of 50 percent or more for the other jobs, and often brings a load of lumber or other materials to the proposed job sites before disappearing, according to the board.

It is against state law to perform contracting services without a license, and to charge a down payment of more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less.

Board spokeswoman Pamela Mares said Fano is suspected of committing contracting fraud across the San Joaquin Valley. After he was suspected of stealing about $200,000 in down payments last year, she said, he fled to Washington before state investigators could catch up to him.

"He's mobile, and he keeps moving around," she said, adding that Fano operates mostly out of the Eight Mile Road area in Stockton, and reportedly did work for a San Joaquin County homeowner as recently as last week.

Fano also is being sought by the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department on a $100,000 arrest warrant, which a department spokesman said was in connection with contractor fraud. He also is wanted on parole violations in Riverside County.

The sheriff's department considers him armed and dangerous. Fano also has used the name Atafa Leu Ieti Jr. and gone by nicknames such as Mike and Ce Ce. His contracting group also operates under a number of names, and Mares said Fano has been part of crews of up to 10 or more people.

Fano is 46 years old, 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighs 260 pounds and has black hair and black eyes. He has been known to drive a red, customized one-ton pickup.

Investigators ask anyone who sees Fano to contact the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department at 468-4425, or the CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team at 916-255-2924.

Bee staff writer Ben van der Meer can be reached at bvandermeer@modbee.com or 578-2331.