A Kent man faces criminal charges in a scheme that left consumers with unfinished and botched landscaping projects, despite paying thousands of dollars for the work.

Honorio Mendez-Ortega, 42, faces four counts of performing or offering to perform work as a construction contractor without being registered by the state. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges in King County District Court.

The King County Prosecutor filed the charges based on contractor compliance investigations by Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Unregistered contracting is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and $5,000 fine.

Since 2013, L&I has cited Ortega-Mendez with 11 civil infractions for unregistered contracting. He owes the state more than $84,000 in fines, unpaid employee wages, and workers’ compensation insurance premiums. He also owes the state Department of Revenue more than $151,000 in unpaid taxes.

Ortega-Mendez originally used his own name to register two contractor businesses from 2003 to 2011. The registrations were suspended partly because of $83,000 in court judgments to harmed customers. He could not register again until he paid the judgments and met all other requirements. 

State law requires construction contractors to register with L&I. The department confirms they have liability insurance, a business license, and a bond — requirements that provide some financial recourse to consumers, if problems arise.