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Two Draftsmen Charged With 487 Counts of Structural Engineering Fraud

Southern California team being held on bonds of $15.6 million and $7.2 million

March 15, 2018

Ruben Gutierrez and Wilfrido Rodriguez of Huntington Beach, California were arrested Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for preparing and selling fraudulent structural engineering plan set pages, structural observation reports and structural calculation sets for primarily residential construction projects. The pair are charged with forgery, identity theft and grand theft.

Both men had worked for Palos Verdes Engineering, Rodriguez as an engineering drafter and Gutierrez as an architectural designer, but neither were licensed or trained architects or civil engineers.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators found Gutierrez and Rodriguez had been running their scam from 2007 to 2014. The fake documents they produced made use of proprietary software stolen from their former employer, Palos Verdes Engineering which allowed the two men to create engineering documents with Palos Verdes' name, logo, and seal to make the documents appear as if they had been prepared, reviewed and approved by a licensed civil engineer. City officials, inspectors and building owners were fooled by the fake reports.

County investigators began their inquiry after Palos Verdes Engineering contacted authorities in April 2014 to alert them to the alleged fraudulent activity of Gutierrez and Rodriguez.

Investigators found more than 735 potential victims of the scam throughout 56 cities in Southern California.

"Due to the fact Rodriguez and Gutierrez are not licensed professional civil engineers, structures built based on their engineering calculations and specifications may be unsafe and not suitable for habitation," the Sheriff's Department wrote in a 2016 video news release which asked developers and building owners who may have had dealings with Gutierrez and Rodriguez to assist in the investigation.

If convicted as charged, Rodriguez faces up to 152 years in state prison, while Gutierrez faces a possible maximum sentence of 105 years in prison.

image: LA County Sheriff

 

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