OC police look for businesses that may have been scammed by fake fire inspector

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Police warn of fake fire inspector who scammed OC businesses
Orange County authorities want residents to be aware of a person who impersonated a fire inspector and conned businesses out of money.

ANAHEIM, Calif. (KABC) -- Orange County authorities want residents to be aware of a person who posed as a fake fire inspector and conned businesses out of money.

The suspect was taken into custody, but authorities are concerned there may be more victims.

Security video shows a suspect, identified as Brian Lee Carsten, walking into Newport Awning in Santa Ana. He told the owners he was the fire marshal, donning a shirt and hat with the Cal Fire logo.

"Immediately identified himself as the fire marshal and said he was there to do an inspection and collect the amount due. He claimed that we had past due invoices from an inspection, which we didn't," Newport Awning co-owner Ashley Nelson said.

He then walked through the business to check fire extinguishers. He even provided an official looking invoice to the owners.

The company wrote the man a check for more than $300. That same day, the business got a community alert, warning them of a man posing as a fire inspector.

The owners realized they had been conned and were able to stop the check before it was cashed. They also received a photo from their neighbor showed that a man in the same uniform in line trying to cash their check.

A police investigation led to Carsten's arrest, and investigators believe he scammed businesses in Santa Ana, Anaheim, Garden Grove and Huntington Beach.

Authorities said he focused on immigrant-owned businesses or non-English speaking places. They also warn that real inspectors do not ask for money on the spot.

During his court hearing Tuesday, the Newport Beach resident pleaded not guilty to charges such as grand theft, extortion and false impersonation of a fire official.

But Carsten's attorney, Dyke Huish, said his client runs a legitimate business.

"He's doing his best to make sure people's homes, residences, commercial buildings are safe and that have proper fire extinguishers that work and function," he said.

Anyone with more information, or who may have been a victim in the scam, is urged to call Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) 847-6227.