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Wednesday, March 20 , 2019, 3:44 am | Overcast 54º


Santa Maria Man Sentenced in Landscaping Scams

The serial scammer is ordered to serve up to eight years in prison and to pay restitution to his victims

A Santa Maria man who posed as a landscaper while bilking victims out of thousands of dollars has been sentenced to up to eight years in prison.

Gilbert Lee Martinez
Gilbert Lee Martinez

Gilbert Lee Martinez, 40, pleaded no contest in a Santa Maria courtroom Tuesday to several counts of felony theft and one count of felony residential burglary, which results in one strike.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s detectives arrested Martinez on July 9 after authorities in Arcadia detained him for trying to cash a forged check.

Detectives had linked Martinez to several cases around Santa Barbara County where he took money upfront for tree-trimming jobs that he never performed.

“He hurt a lot of people, especially the elderly, who are particularly hit hard during tough financial times,” said Detective Chuck Cooley, who arrested Martinez.

When local media reported Martinez’s illegal activities, nearly two dozen victims came forward this summer, helping detectives bolster their case.

“This is community policing at its finest, in which the community worked together with law enforcement to solve these crimes,” Lt. Sol Linver said. “The media’s message led to more victims coming forward, who helped us build a solid case that ultimately put a serial criminal away.”

Martinez also has been ordered to pay restitution to all of the victims, who lost about $50,000 combined. Martinez still faces similar charges in San Luis Obispo and Riverside counties.

The sheriff’s department reminds residents that contractors, by law, are not allowed to accept more than 10 percent upfront before doing any work. Also, make sure the contractor is licensed and sufficiently insured. If not, the resident may be liable for any workers compensation claims.

— Drew Sugars is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

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