Unlicensed Plumbers Push Porcelain Con

Commode caper involves convincing residents of requirement to replace toilets

Unlicensed plumbers, some of whom may or may not be named "Joe," appear to be plumbing the depths of conservancy in the cities of Downey, Huntington Park, Maywood and Norwalk.

In what might end up ranking as one of the more imaginative scams of 2009 so far, some contractors are allegedly going door to door claiming a new low-flow law requires residents to install water-efficient commodes, which use three gallons or less per flush. The appeal for money, it seems, is never made. Rather, the installation is offered for free.

All these pipers seek is for the homeowners -- usually elderly people who are at home during the day -- to play along and provide a signature.

After obtaining a signed form, some of these unlicensed companies have allegedly taken the documents to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to collect up to $165 in rebates offered through a program intended to promote, but not require, the use of efficient toilets.

No word on whether the thrones ever actually get installed, or, if so, whether they flow in the right direction (a legitimate concern if we're talking about an unlicensed, and/or unskilled joe).

One thing's for certain. The MWD is up to its neck in complaints.

One district spokeswoman, Valerie Howard, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that her office has "been getting just a constant stream of phone calls."

Another spokesman, Bob Muir, stressed that the choice is up to the homeowner, but that no company has been endorsed to do installations for the district, and no such installation is required by law.

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