A Californian contractor faces felony grand theft and fraud charges after alleged multiple forgings of a contractor’s license to secure jobs. Notably, while operating under these false licenses, contractor Tommy Min Jue allegedly installed faulty fire alarms throughout Bay Area businesses — most prominently including one Mission District residency that suffered a fatal fire disaster in 2015.
Court documents allege that Jue, the sole proprietor of an eponymous contracting business since 2011, engaged in a pattern of behavior from 2015 to 2018 where he repeatedly obtained contractor’s license numbers not belonging to himself — falsely presenting himself as a licensed contractor order through the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection to earn trust and secure multiple fire-safety equipment installation opportunities.
Jue currently faces charges from a San Francisco district attorney including grand theft, using a contractor’s license with intent to defraud, filing a false or forged instrument, forgery, and insurance fraud.
Authorities warn Jue’s past customers to reexamine their equipment
The current charges come six years after a four-alarm fire completely destroyed the three-story residential property at 2588 Mission Street that Jue worked on installing fire alarms — and was supposed to maintain, as alleged by its owner — leaving one person dead, half a dozen injured, and over 60 residents displaced.
Now, authorities are warning anyone who had installations from Tom Jue & Company over the years to reexamine their equipment and to deal with proper credentialed contractors in the future.
“Contracting without a license, particularly when installing essential fire safety devices, erodes public trust and puts lives at risk. People who jeopardize public safety in this way must be held accountable,” stated District Attorney Boudin in a press release.
“Consumers should be able to rely on a contractor’s license as an assurance that they’re being assisted by a competent expert in their field,” Boudin said.
The investigation also reports that authorities believe that he was still working through his litigative battles with building owner Hawk Ling Lou until 2018, possibly installing equipment on hundreds of homes in the region in the meantime.
A 2018 investigation from local television station, KTVU FOX 2, found that Jue had reportedly been presenting himself as a licensed contractor and operated his company using the license number of another company — GC Electric — license number for almost a decade.
According to the report, San Francisco Fire Department inspector Mike Patt “simply [looked] for the sticker with the vendor’s name and license number on it…” the day after the blaze, and didn’t test to see if the alarm sounded. In that search, the station’s investigative journalists were able to glean from a wrongful death suit filing against Lou that also mentions multiple reports of failed fire alarm triggers and blocked fire exits.
In a deposition, Jue admitted that he was never an employee or licensed contractor through GC Electric, and later settled for his role in the case.
According to court documents, Jue remained working on fire-safety equipment jobs by later utilizing the Contractor’s License Number of Chan Electrical Work. This practice purportedly was in place for some time but was discovered in August of 2018, with Chan listed as a Respondent who allowed Jue to use his company’s license number to continue certifying and inspecting fire alarms. As a result, Chan Electrical Work’s license was revoked in October of 2019 according to another court filing.
A spokesperson for the Contractors State License Board said that they “have absolutely zero records with Tom Jue’s name. He doesn’t show up on any application for at least the last 15 years.”
Jue allegedly continued to operate his company and perform work through the fall of 2018 — by way of his word-of-mouth popularity with the local community, according to KTVU. Jue continued operations even after state authorities sent him a cease-and-desist.
Mission District still recovering from 2015 fire disaster
The Mission District neighborhood continues to reel from the aftermath of the 2015 fire disaster.
Dozens of businesses were forced to relocate or go under after the building was demolished in 2016, and now Lou has proposed a new nine-story building with 129 rental apartments for the site, frustrating some former residents who wish to see the lot in the heart of the city turned into 100% affordable housing in honor of the fire victims.
Erick Arguello, a community activist and president of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District said in a pre-application meeting held over Zoom in June of last year that residents “call this building ‘La Muerte,’ because it will cause the death of our community by pushing gentrification and displacement,” and said the community “will fight tooth and nail to make sure this project does not happen.”
Jue was arraigned on March 10, 2021, and the case is underway. The lot at 22nd and Mission St. still remains vacant, with a large crater where the building once stood for decades.