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Man accused of impersonating fire official, shaking down immigrant businesses

September 14, 2009 |  3:14 pm

A Camarillo man employed by a fire protection business was charged with impersonating a fire investigator and allegedly swindling businesses, Oxnard fire officials said.

Fernando Castillo allegedly targeted mostly small and immigrant-owned businesses, representing himself as an Oxnard fire marshal and threatening to close the businesses down if the fire extinguishers were not immediately serviced, said Rod Thorp, Oxnard deputy fire marshal.

Castillo, an employee of American Fire Protection, was arrested last month after the Oxnard fire and police departments began an investigation into business complaints about him. In some cases, he didn’t represent himself as a marshal but was aggressive in pushing his company’s services, Thorp said.

Castillo would then offer his services and leave the business with a bill from American Fire Protection, officials said. In some cases, the extinguishers were either not serviced or improperly serviced, Thorp said.

“His whole goal is to get the business to spend money on his service, and he doesn’t provide it properly,” he said.

In July, the company’s state license was suspended for questionable business practices.

Thorp urged businesses whose extinguishers may have been serviced by Castillo to have them checked out. The investigation is ongoing and investigators are looking for other businesses that may have been targeted by Castillo, Thorp said.

Castillo could not immediately be reached for comment.

-- Raja Abdulrahim