Man accused of defrauding Pasadena businesses through fraudulent fire extinguisher service

PASADENA >> Police and fire officials arrested a man Wednesday in connection with an alleged scam ripping off dozens of Pasadena businesses over recent years through a series of fraudulent fire extinguisher service businesses, officials said.
Operating under several different business names, Joshua Lopez, 32, of Rowland Heights, was among a group of suspects who used deceptive tactics to obtain appointments with local businesses, then failed to properly service the fire extinguishers, often leaving behind old or faulty extinguishers with new inspection certificates, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
Not only did the scam bilk Pasadena business owners out of money, but it left them in serious danger with a “false sense of security” should they depend on their fire extinguishers to fight a fire, Derderian said.
When business owners get their fire equipment services, as is required annually by law, “There’s an expectation that it’s going to work during an emergency,” Derderian said.
To secure business, the companies relied on deceitful and dishonest practices, such as falsely telling employees that their superiors had previously approved the service, officials said.
The alleged scam has been taking place in Pasadena for several years, but those responsible eluded authorities until Wednesday, Derderian said.
Officials arrested Lopez Wednesday when he showed up to service a fire extinguisher at a Pasadena nonprofit organization, CALSTART, which has been victimized by the alleged scam for the past three years, according to CALSTART Chief Financial Officer Scott Carrano. The nonprofit group is dedicated to the advancement of green transportation technologies and workforce training, primarily through research, consulting and education.
Carrano said he first became suspicious of the fire equipment servicing company last year after noticing they had grossly overbilled for their purported services.
After having the extinguishers examined, Carrano learned they had not been properly serviced, or even serviced at all.
There was no inspector license number or company license number listed on the fire extinguisher certificates left by the company, and the dates on the certification cards did not match those on the labels attached to the extinguishers themselves.
In once instance, Lopez caught on surveillance camera simply replacing the certification tag without servicing the extinguisher, officials said.
CALSTART has since replaced its seven fire extinguishers from others from a reputable company, he said.
While the extinguisher service businesses charged $25 to $30 per each fire extinguisher purportedly serviced, Carrano said he was far more disturbed by the deceit, and the potential danger it placed his employees in, “from a safety perspective.”
“We’ve got 20 lives in our building, and I’m responsible for them,” he said.
Carrano thanks Pasadena fire officials for their help and urged other businesses to check on their fire extinguishers.
The investigation into Lopez, his businesses and his associates was ongoing, officials said.
Lopez was issued a misdemeanor fraud citation, Pasadena police Lt. Mark Goodman said.
He could not be reached for comment Friday.
Pasadena fire officials urged business owners to be mindful when it comes to their fire safety equipment.
“The Pasadena Fire Department reminds businesses and residents (of) condominium and apartment units to ask questions if an uninvited person shows up claiming they were scheduled,” Derderian said. “After confirming that the company was actually requested, make sure you ask for a city business license and their state fire marshal identification that authorizes them to work on fire extinguishers. Additionally, their vehicle should be labeled with a company name and business license number.”
Fire department officials urged business owners to contact the department at 626-744-7177 with any concerns regarding a fire extinguisher service company.

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