File photo of the Mission and 22nd street fire in 2015.

Tommy Min Jue, a contractor accused of setting up faulty fire alarms in numerous San Francisco buildings — including the building at 22nd and Mission Streets where a 2015 fire left one person dead and scores of occupants displaced — has been charged with grand theft, using a contractor’s license with intent to defraud, forgery, and insurance fraud.

Jue’s charges all stem from his allegedly fraudulent fire alarm company that may have visited hundreds of homes.  

The San Francisco District Attorney announced the charges on Tuesday, six years after the four-alarm fire destroyed the building at 22nd and Mission streets. Mission Local was among those displaced. 

The building’s owner, Hawk Ling Lou, said Jue managed the building’s fire alarms. These failed to sound as the fire engulfed the building. Many occupants only learned of the fire as fire engines arrived, and the blaze cost resident Mauricio Orellana his life. 

In the flood of litigation against Lou following the deadly blaze, Lou blamed Jue for the catastrophe, alleging he failed to maintain the system. And Jue admitted in a deposition that he was never a licensed contractor in a case that eventually settled, KTVU reported in 2018

But the building at 2578-2598 Mission St., which was never restored — only a crater remains at the corner — is not the only site where Jue is accused of potentially putting occupants in harm’s way. 

District Attorney Chesa Boudin said in his announcement today that an investigation by his office and the Contractors State License Board, which regulates the state’s construction industry, focused on 15 job sites where Jue allegedly performed “fire alarm service or installation.” 

Furthermore, Department and Building Inspection sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Mission Local that “literally thousands of fire extinguishers throughout the city are potentially worthless.”

Boudin warned consumers to be careful about any work Jue or his company, Tom Jue & Company, may have done in their homes or buildings — and urged them to have the work reinspected by a licensed contractor. Boudin also asked that clients of Jue contact his office. 

“Contracting without a license, particularly when installing essential fire safety devices, erodes public trust and puts lives at risk. People who jeopardize public safety in this way must be held accountable,” Boudin said in a statement.  “Consumers should be able to rely on a contractor’s license as an assurance that they’re being assisted by a competent expert in their field. ”

Even after the DA’s office began investigating Jue in 2018 and the San Francisco Fire Department issued a cease-and-desist order, Jue continued to perform fire alarm work under various contractor’s licenses that were not his own, according to a KTVU investigation

On Tuesday afternoon, Jue was arraigned on the felony charges in San Francisco Superior Court. His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment. 

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. Just read the article. There are a few clarifications that need to be made both on article and comments.
    First, Boudin doesn’t know what he is talking about as Fire panels require to be serviced annually, plus the Fire department does building inspections on apartments about every other year. This should have flushed out all of Tom’s serviced properties. The bigger problem is Tom is still quoting jobs in the City today. You would think the DA would gone after disconnecting his phone as his phone number as its still the number that were posted on the Fire panels in 2015. He did work on many hundreds of panels in the City, so its free advertising for Tom.
    Second, the quote from the Source from the Building department either was miss quoted or an idiot. Fire extinguishers are different than fire panels and require different licenses all together and best to my knowledge that is not what Tom did not do any work on extinguishers. Plus extinguishers also need to be serviced annually, so not likely there are thousands that are worthless.
    Third, to give perspective. Tom was probably one of the most used Fire Service people used in the City in 2015. As for being an expert, he was considered to be one of the best at getting older panels operational again. He was referred by other professionals in the industry when they were unable to get a panel operational.
    This take will be controversial but Boudin is guilty of putting a square peg in a round hole when he says. “Consumers should be able to rely on a contractor’s license as an assurance that they’re being assisted by a competent expert in their field. ”
    Yes, the statement is 100% correct and Tom is guilty of half of that statement and guilty of many more things not in the statement. IE still doing work through the City today but it bugs me when Boudin tries to imply that he was not competent. If you were go back to 2015 and poll all of the fire inspectors on who were the top 5 fire panel contractors, Tom would show up on all of their lists.
    Again, Tom is someone to avoid and is still doing work today which is kinda on Boudin for not going disconnecting Tom’s business number.

  2. You’re right on both accounts Tom. Many states including Texas simply do not issue contractors licenses.

    1. Incorrect. Texas does require contractors to have licenses. The company has to be licensed and insured and the technician also has to be licensed. I do know a lot of states that don’t require licenses though. Many just require a nicet level 1.

  3. It is more than ironic that many rent-controlled apartments were destroyed by the city’s failure to inspect and regulate contractors like this. Claiming to support “tenant rights” while ignoring basic life safety is shameful.

    1. Ken,

      Displaced residential tenants have a right to return to a rent-controlled building destroyed by fire. So the use or designation of the building cannot be arbitrarily changed in the manner you suggest.

      As for unlicensed contractors in the city, I would estimate that is at least 50% of all contractors. Many contractors regard the license as an extortion by the state. They take a similar view to city-granted permits, which again are mostly a revenue source for the city.

      1. People who hire unlicensed contractors are setting themselves up for lawsuits, as the article makes clear. Why would any property owner do that, just to save a few bucks?

        1. Grace, If a job is less than $500 then it is perfectly legal to hire a “handyman” rather than a licensed contractor. Obviously any job can be subdivided into small tasks costing less than $500 each.

          Another trick is that once a company has a license then any subcontractor can work for them. I know of one case where the father has the license but the son does all the work. In fact the father is retired but just keeps his license as a placeholder.

          People avoid licenses and permits because they add a lot to the cost of the job, and many folks see no genuine need for it. Oh, and having a permit means that your Prop 13 cost basis goes up by the value of the work.