Stuck with an old, leaky loaner refrigerator, Silvia Herrejon was tired of mopping up the mess.
“I have to take everything out and wipe it,” she said, demonstrating her twice-weekly cleaning routine.
The fridge is undersized for her new home — leaving sizable gaps on both sides, she said, and reminding her of what used to fill the space between her kitchen counter and wall nearly perfectly.
It was a large stainless steel Kenmore fridge that used to feed her family — just one of the matching set of kitchen appliances she purchased for her new home and was still paying off with monthly payments, according to Herrejon.
After almost 10 months of waiting for a repairman to fix it, Herrejon wanted her own fridge back — but her expectations were low.
“On Dec. 23, it’s going to be a year,” she said, recounting the unfortunate time the refrigerator broke — less than 24 hours before they planned to host the annual Christmas party for their family and relatives.
Herrejon was anxious — a little too anxious even, she said — to get it fixed, paying the repairman, Jose Luis Valle of JV Heating and Airconditioning $735.57.
Valle promised to have it back within a week, but after a few weeks, he stopped returning their calls altogether, she said.
“Does he still even have my fridge?” she said. “I don’t know.”
Building contractors is California aren’t allowed to take more than 10 percent or $1,000 up front, whichever is less, but the rules are different when it comes to refrigerator repairmen, according to Russ Heimerich of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
“There is no such stricture for electronic appliance repair,” he said, adding that consumers should always be wary of paying large amounts up front.
“Anybody can repair a refridgerator, but if you’re going to do it for money, then you have to have a license,” he said.
As it turns out, the state said Valle did not have a license to repair refrigerators — and his heating and air conditioning license had expired in 2009.
When CBS Sacramento could not reach Valle by phone, the Call Kurtis Team went searching for Herrejon’s fridge.
The business address listed for Valle’s company was closed, so a CBS Sacramento producer stopped by his Yuba City home, out of which Herrejon said he often worked.
Valle did not appear to be home, despite loud music playing from his garage, but sitting in the middle of his open garage was a dusty refrigerator matching Herrejon’s description.
CBS Sacramento left a note and business card at Valle’s front door.
Valle later acknowledged by phone his lack of a license to CBS Sacramento, saying he “did this as a favor,” so he didn’t need a license.
When asked why he had taken $735.57 to repair the fridge, he added, “I will refund all of their money.”
Just hours after speaking with CBS Sacramento, Valle returned the refrigerator, still broken and now missing drawers, according to Herrejon.
She said he has agreed to cut a check for the full amount of $735.57 on Friday, Oct. 21, but said she can’t believe how much trouble came from what she thought would be a simple fix.
“We’re trusting people,” she said. “If someone tells you they’re going to fix it, you think they’re gonna fix it.”