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Rooter Hero settles, ordered to pay $209K, other fees — podcast

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

Rooter Hero, the plumbing company that was the focus of a four-part COURIER investigative series last year, has settled out of court with 10 aggrieved former customers and the state of California, and will pay $208,864 in restitution and fees as part of the agreement. Its contractor’s license has also been put on probation for five years.

Rooter Hero CEO John Akhoian and his wife, CFO Tamar Akhoian, signed the California Contractors State License Board’s stipulated settlement and disciplinary order on December 7, 2021. The action, case number N2019-298, was ordered December 27 and became effective this past Sunday, January 27.

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The agreement requires Rooter Hero to make $171,667.97 in restitution to the 10 homeowners named in the action by March 27; by February 27, pay the California State Contractor’s Board’s investigative costs of $37,195.71; and post a bond or a cash deposit of $75,000 with C.S.L.B. by January 27.

Among the accusations listed under “factual allegations” in the case were 51 “calls for discipline” dating back to 2017. They contended Rooter Hero, “willfully or fraudulently contracted for work that was not required and overcharged for work performed,” “departed from accepted trade standards for good and workmanlike construction,” “willfully or fraudulently overcharged for work that was not required, causing a substantial injury,” “made substantial misrepresentations to” a California homeowner “in the procurement of the contract,” “performed unnecessary work in replacing the plumbing system that had no indication that it needed to be replaced,” “requested and received payment that exceeded the value of work or materials provided to the … project,” and numerous and sundry complaints of out of code work and other questionable business practices.

While not an admission of guilt per se, by signing the stipulated order, Rooter Hero agreed the contractor’s board, at a hearing, “could establish a factual basis for the charges in the accusation,” said C.S.L.B. spokesperson Joyia Emard.

Rooter Hero’s “responsible managing employee,” William Beyermann, was also ordered to post a $30,000 bond or cash deposit with the board. “The responsible managing employee is the individual on the contractor’s license who ‘qualifies’ the license with their knowledge and experience,” said Emard. “The license qualifier is responsible for exercising direction and control of construction operations to secure compliance with state laws and board requirements.”

The bonds or cash deposits will be in place for five years, through January 27, 2027.

“The $75,000 disciplinary bond [for Rooter Hero] described in paragraph six of the Stipulated Settlement and Disciplinary Order is not a fine,” Emard told the COURIER. “Disciplinary bonds are required by Business and Professions Code section 7071.8 to be imposed on contractors who are associated with licenses that have been suspended or revoked as a result of disciplinary action. The bond amount is fixed according to the seriousness of the violation but cannot be less than $15,000 or exceed $150,000.”

Though the settlement initially revoked the contractor’s licenses for Rooter Hero, Beyermann and Chief Operating Officer John Bergeron, the state stayed that part of the order, and placed all three licenses on probation for five years, until January 27, 2027, on the terms the three: obey all laws; be available for C.S.L.B. interviews during the probationary period; complete the probation; do not violate the terms of the order or the licenses will be revoked immediately; make the $171,667.97 in restitution to all homeowners by March 27; post the $105,000 in bond money by February 27; submit copies of documents upon demand; and pay the C.S.L.B.’s $37,195.71 in investigative costs of by February 27.

Another condition of probation is to “submit an application for John Akhoian to be Rooter Hero’s ‘responsible qualifying officer,’ and ‘disassociate’ Beyermann as ‘responsible managing employee.’” This stipulation is designed to put CEO Akhoian in the position of being the ultimate responsible party in the event future C.S.L.B. action is brought against Rooter Hero, Emard said.

The five year probationary period will be extended to include any new suspension edicts if the contractor’s licenses of Rooter Hero, Beyermann or Bergeron are suspended for any reason while it is in place, Emard told the COURIER. Examples of why a license may be suspended include failure to obtain a bond or comply with a civil judgment. It could also be triggered as a result of a C.S.L.B. administrative action.

If after the five year probationary period the terms and conditions have all been followed, the contractor’s licenses of Rooter Hero, Beyermann and Bergeron will be restored to “members in good standing,” so to speak. Accusation-related documents remain public on the C.S.L.B. website for seven years after the accusation has been settled. Rooter Hero’s contractor’s license number is 1028886. You can navigate to the company’s detail page by typing that number into the search field at https://cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/CheckLicenseII/CheckLicense.aspx.

The settlement brings to a close a case the COURIER wrote about over four weeks in June and July 2021 as part of its investigation into Rooter Hero’s blatantly deceptive business practices.

The contractor’s board was represented by the California Office of the Attorney General. The settlement included Rooter Hero waiving its right to an administrative hearing.

Rooter Hero is incorporated in Nevada, with 10 locations in California — including Montclair — and Arizona, but none in the Silver State.

The COURIER talked to Rooter Hero COO John Bergeron on Tuesday. He requested we submit our questions to him in writing via email. We did so Tuesday, but repeated attempts to contact him for answers via email, text, and phone since had all gone unanswered by press time Thursday.

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