Santa Cruz County

Man sentenced for bilking Santa Cruz Co. residents in contracting scam

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - A man convicted of bilking three Santa Cruz County residents was sentenced Tuesday to  365 days in county jail followed by three years of probation.

Sonny Costello was convicted of scamming older homeowners by pretending to be a contractor and charging them to resurface their driveways. Typically, the work wasn't needed anyways, prosecutor William Atkinson said back in early 2013. Costello would collect money for work he never performed.

Costello was convicted of two felony counts of elder financial abuse and one count of contracting without a valid license with two prior convictions for the same.

Costello also was ordered to pay more than $8,000 in restitution, plus fees and fines. He was taken into custody Tuesday at his appearance in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Atkinson said.

Atkinson says homeowners should never agree to any unsolicited proposals for home repair, and before making any sort of agreement, he says homeowners should look online to see if a contractor's license is valid.

Prosecutors collected surveillance footage of Costello cashing victims' checks at banks soon after being paid. Atkinson said investigators also found a video posted on YouTube in March 2008 titled "Gypsy Girls How to Make Money," which depicts a man who appears to be Costello. They believe he was using the video to explain how to pull off these types of home contracting scams.

That video is below.


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