198 Fresno County residents cheated in solar power scam

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A warning tonight to Fresno County residents who are thinking about putting in solar panels.

Spanish-speaking residents in Parlier have been hit hard by solar fraud.

Authorities are sending out 300,000 notices to Fresno County utility customers who may be considering solar.

They urge people to ask questions and not rush, check the contractor's license, get competing bids, get everything in writing and know you can cancel your contract within three days.

Contractors put up a few panels, never connected them and never came back. They also had Emily Ramirez take out two loans for over $32,000 each.

"I was able to clear one loan, and I'm stuck with one which I owe like $44,000 with interest," she says.

Of the 198 people in Fresno County who have filed complaints with the state about solar systems, 50 came from one neighborhood in Parlier.

The Public Utilities Commission and State Contractor State Licensing Board are now investigating.

"What we're finding out happened is they're going to sell you a solar system that you can't afford. They tell you the system is part of a government-funded program and it's going to be paid for through your property taxes. What they don't tell you that's actually in addition to your property taxes," says Rick Lopes of the Contractor State Licensing Board.

The board has already revoked the licenses of five contractors during the investigation but worries there could be more victims.

The City of Parlier is now taking steps to try to prevent more incidents.

"Once a contractor comes in to get a permit for the solar, our department will actually call the homeowner to make sure they understand what they're actually signing up for," says Parlier Mayor Alma Beltran.

Parlier's not the only smaller community dealing with this problem.

12 complaints came from Sanger, 11 in Reedley and five more in Huron.
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