Santa Clara County District Attorney

South Bay Couple Allegedly Cheated Remodeling Customers Out Of $860,000

August 31, 2018 - 3:44 pm

Business was good for 50-year-old Connie Gabriel and her 65-year-old husband, Bill, who owned San Jose-based Sunrooms America. But they got themselves into trouble by taking more than $800,000 dollars from customers for jobs that they knew they couldn't finish, prosecutors alleged on Friday. 

The couple faces at least 79 counts, including 33 felonies that were unveiled Friday, for charges that include grand theft and elder fraud in connection for swindling more than 30 customers around the Bay Area. 

The scheme began in 2015, when the couple could no longer pay their manufacturer for home-remodeling materials, yet continued to pursuing new clients, according to Santa Clara County Prosecutor Cherie Bourlard. 

“Knowing that they were cut off from the supplies and materials that they needed,” added Bourlard, “the Gabriels nevertheless kept on soliciting clients and customers knowing that they were not going to be able to complete the job.”

Bill Gabriel earned the trust of potential customers by calling himself a “brother of Christ” and a Vietnam war veteran who ministered to veterans, said Bourlard. The alleged scam lasted until 2017 when the couple ran off to Arizona, where they were arrested on August 8. 

The Gabriels often took large, up front deposits for the work, then left customers with half-finished rooms or, in some cases, projects that never started. 

Multiple reviewers on the company’s Yelp page describe months of frustrating delays and paying thousands of dollars only to have the couple stop returning their calls.

Prosecutors said their auditors followed the money—and it didn’t go toward supplies or materials. The couple spent nearly $860,000 on a trip to Disneyland, car payments and rent, according to the district attorney's office. 

The Gabriels’ attorney could not be reached for comment.

The Contractor’s State License Board has revoked the licenses from three companies that were owned and managed by the Gabriels.

Reported by Jennifer Hodges.

Written by Jordan Bowen.