Two men who posed as structural engineers are have been arrested by California police and charged with 487 counts related to the sale of fraudulent documents.
Ruben Gutierrez and Wilfrido Rodriguez had previously worked for Palos Verdes Engineering, Rodriguez as an engineering drafter and Gutierrez as an architectural designer, but neither were licensed or trained architects or engineers, prosecutors said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) is accusing Gutierrez, 43, and Rodriguez, 46, of producing fake documents between 2007 and 2014. It is alleged that they produced them using proprietary software stolen from Palos Verdes, and bearing its name, logo, and seal.
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. They are reported to have discovered more than 735 potential victims of the scam throughout 56 cities in southern California.
They were arrested on 13 March at their residence and booked at a Los Angeles County jail facility, LASD said, and were due to be arraigned on 15 March.
The Sheriff’s Department issued a press release in 2016 that asked developers and building owners who may have had dealings with Gutierrez and Rodriguez to assist in the investigation.
It said: "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."
A video of that news conference can be seen here.
Gutierrez is being held on $7.2m bail, and Rodriguez’s bail had been set at $15.6m. If convicted, Rodriguez faces up to 152 years in state prison, while Gutierrez faces a possible maximum sentence of 105 years.
Image: Reuben Gutierrez, left, and Wilfrido Rodriguez are seen in driver’s licence photos (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)