Pastor Facing Civil Claims After Not Completing Unauthorized Contracting Work

This is not the first time NBC 7 has received complaints from viewers about Pastor James E. Wright.

A man claiming to be a pastor and a contractor is facing civil claims from several people who say he took their cash but never did the work.

Many are now having trouble getting their money back.

One veteran told NBC 7 he chose to work with Pastor James E. Wright, not just because he trusted him as a man of God, but also because he says Wright was advertising a veteran-owned business.

"As a veteran myself, I wanted to support that. Long story short, it turns out, he's not actually a veteran, which is pretty shameful for him to say he is," said Vince Smith, a combat veteran who returned from Afghanistan in April, and decided to invest in home improvements.

Receipts show he paid a $2,000 deposit, but Smith says the contractor never showed up to do the work.

Now he says he's having to go to small claims court to get his money back.

Wright did not respond to requests for comment.

Pastor James Wright's Craigslist ad boasts services for everything from kitchens and baths to landscaping and electrical work.

The website claims he's got 25 years experience in handyman work. But, a quick check with the state's Contractor Licensing Board shows Wright's license is expired, since 1992.

This is not the first time NBC 7 has received complaints from viewers about Wright.

In May 2015, the federal government took away Wright's Project Share license to provide food to needy people. That was after NBC 7 revealed he was cashing out parishioner's and resident's food stamp cards in exchange for deplorable conditions in what Wright called "shelters."

Smith said he tried getting his money back from Wright, who kept texting him excuse after excuse, including that Wright had been in a car accident.

A handful of other people have shared similar stories about home improvement work they paid Wright to complete.

Smith said he's frustrated because he's trying to get the project done and get his money back before his next deployment. 

"I'm probably leaving again in the Fall, and I'm wasting all this time trying to recover that money to get this project done before I leave again," Vince said.

Wright has faced criminal charges in the past, for example, theft, embezzlement and contracting without a license.

California law requires contractors obtain a valid state license to contract for home improvement jobs that cost more than $500. Violations are misdemeanors with a maximum penalty of up to a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail, for each offense.

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