Construction contractor accused of fraud, identity theft

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EL CAJON, Calif. -- Sixty-one-year-old Kefah Damman of El Cajon had saved her money over the last couple of years to pay for a dream backyard, but said it won’t be happening anytime soon.

"Cost me $5,000 so far for nothing," she said.

Damman said it all happened when she hired a man who originally identified himself as Lionel Atilano Marquez to do the work. He  drew up a contract and demanded $5,000 as a down payment, she said.

"I need the money in cash…no checks," Damman said, reading the text messages sent to her from the contractor.

Damman agreed and paid him, and after two days of very little work, the contractor demanded more money. Damman paid him and that was the last she saw of the contractor.

"He’s supposed to put concrete here, he didn’t put anything," Damman said.

Damman and her family tried to track him down, but had no luck. They searched his contractor’s license and discovered the man they thought was Lionel Atilano Marquez was actually Lionel Cervantes.

"We looked for the license, the contractor's license, and we called the company. It was the guy who said we don’t have this name, this guy is using my name he’s using my license," Damman said.

The real Atilano Marquez is the owner of Atila Construction.  He was Cervantes’ other victim.

“He has been ripping off people using my business name and my first name and last name so he’s writing contracts and he’s scamming people from their deposits," Marquez said.

Marquez said his reputation is on the line, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

"It’s just crazy that this person just comes in like it’s so easy to get somebody’s contractors number get my name, last name and start doing business," Marquez said.

FOX 5 tried to contact Cervantes, but no one was home. FOX 5 learned this is not the first time Cervantes has been accused of this type of crime.

"He’s a big scammer and he’s been getting away with it for years."

A local attorney who does not wish to be identified was working a case against Cervantes and said he’s been prosecuted before.

"He sometimes starts the job and then gets money up front and leaves and never finishes," said the attorney. "He’s been using other contractors license numbers fraudulently.”

On Cervantes’ Yelp page, there are numerous reviews accusing him of being a thief and a swindler.

For Kefa and Atilano both know the damage is done but hope by speaking out, this kind of thing never happens to anyone again.

"How long is it going to take this scamming? One year, two year, 10 years, 20 years…all your life…but you’re going to be on the run," Damman said.

Cervantes is being investigated by the District Attorney’s Office for various crimes including fraud, identity theft and theft.

Anyone who has been a victim should contact the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.

2 comments

  • Linda K.

    I was a victim of a similar crime. The guy (Erik Senninger) came, took my money, then disappeared. I filed every report I could and waited (a year). They arrested him a month ago and tacked my charges on to his other ones.

    Unsure if I’ll recoup any of my money but I am happy to see he’s locked up now. He’s doing some serious jail time where he can’t victimize others.

    I was told by investigators that the type of scam I fell for is extremely common.

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