NEW ORLEANS, LA (Press Release) – An undercover operation by State Fire Marshal investigators, which began last week culminated yesterday in criminal and civil charges being lodged against five (5) men.
In response to complaints regarding unlicensed local and out-of-state locksmiths doing business in the Greater New Orleans area, the State Fire Marshal conducted a double sting operation late last week resulting in four (4) individuals being snared.
Investigators had been informed by several licensed locksmiths of the existence of internet ads that contained New Orleans-area telephone numbers for locksmith services by companies believed to be headquartered out-of-state. When the numbers were called, callers were routed to a call center in a different state that would then dispatch an unlicensed operative here in Louisiana.
One particular number was listed to a company known only as “24 Hour Locksmith” which, according to the State Fire Marshal’s office, is unlicensed to conduct business in this state.
None of the companies identified during the operation are currently licensed through the State Fire Marshal’s office, which is the licensing and regulatory agency with oversight of approximately 1,500 companies, including but not limited to locksmiths.
The first operation, staged in New Orleans East, ended with three (3) citations being issued after plain- clothes investigators, posing as business owners, met with unsuspecting individuals who had been dispatched by an out-of-state call center to provide quotes on rekeying several locks in a vacant New Orleans business space. Such work requires licensure.
The men and companies that were cited for unlicensed activity are Robert B. Grant, Ontario, Canada; Alvin D. Silva, Jacksonville, Florida (“24 Hour Locksmith”); and Clifford R. Johnson, Chalmette (“Zippy Locksmith”).
In addition to the individual citations issued, “24 Hour Locksmith” and “Zippy Locksmith” received citations for proposed civil fines of $1,500 each. The proposed fines for the men were $500 each. Cease and desist orders were also issued to the trio and their respective companies.
Failure to comply with such an order subjects one to both civil and criminal penalties, including possible prison time.
The second sting, which was conducted in Gretna, snagged a local man whose family-owned company, “The Lock Clinic,” has been under a cease and desist order since May 2010.
After the man arrived at a home and began a dialogue with a plain-clothes investigator, he then removed a lock set from an exterior door while investigators surreptitiously videoed him. A uniformed officer was then called in to approach the person.
The man, identified as Bryan S. Dowell, of Mandeville, denied affiliation with “The Lock Clinic,” but later admitted that his brother, David Dowell, who owns and operates that business, had dispatched him to the home.
Bryan Dowell was subsequently issued a citation with a proposed fine of $1,500 and a cease and desist order before being released.
Yesterday, investigators charged David J. Dowell, Jr., owner of “The Lock Clinic,” with a criminal misdemeanor for violating the May 2010 cease and desist order of the State Fire Marshal. Also, while in the business, investigators observed business cards advertising work on safes and locks, both of which services require a license.
In addition, David Dowell, Jr. received notice regarding a proposed civil fine totaling $6,500 for violating the cease and desist order and performing locksmith services without a valid license from the State Fire Marshal’s office.
In another instance yesterday, Don G. Saracino, of Slidell and owner of “Zippy Locksmith,” was issued a citation for a proposed civil fine of $1,500 for operating an unlicensed locksmith business, as well as a cease and desist order.