CHULA VISTAMan Accused in Remodeling Scam Pleads Not Guilty

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A Chula Vista man accused of scamming at least five San Diego County residents -- three of them elderly -- out of thousands of dollars in a remodeling scam pleaded not guilty Monday to 13 felony charges.
Raul Casillas appeared in court out of custody after posting $150, 000 bail. But Judge Gale Kaneshiro raised the bail amount to $250, 000 after questioning whether the money used to post the original bail was obtained by felonious conduct.
Casillas, 49, was handcuffed and taken back into custody.
Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood said some of the alleged victims were 79 and 74 years old. The defendant -- using another contractor's license number -- collected money from them for remodeling work, he said.
"He did so with the intent to rip them off, " the prosecutor said.
Investigators from the Contractors State License Board said Casillas advertised in a weekly mailer between 2006 and this year, using the license number of a contractor who did not give him permission to do so.
In one case, it is believed an elderly couple paid Casillas a total of $278, 000 for work that a CSLB expert valued at less than $75, 000, according to Greenwood.
Authorities allege much of Casillas' work violated building codes and poses a potential fire hazard threat. The projects Casillas worked on were either abandoned or characterized by substandard work, according to prosecutors.
But defense attorney Brian Watkins said his client's work was all done with proper permits.
The prosecution alleges that Casillas accompanied a 79-year-old woman to her bank in September, where he persuaded her to transfer $300, 000 from her savings into a checking account.
From that amount, the woman withdrew $10, 000 and gave it to Casillas, according to court papers.
On other occasions, Casillas was seen in the bank addressing the senior citizen as "mom, " and writing in her checkbook register, answering questions directed toward her and leaving with her arm in his hand, authorities allege.
Casillas is charged with diversion of construction funds, eight counts of residential burglary and two counts of financial elder abuse.
A bail review was set for Wednesday, at which time the source of Casillas' bail money will be examined, the judge said.
Kaneshiro also scheduled a readiness conference for Dec. 30 and a preliminary hearing for Jan. 4.

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