No Contest Plea Entered in Los Gatos Interior Designer Case

Julie Cavanaugh, owner of Design 101 Interiors, will be sentenced June 4.

Los Gatos interior designer Julie Cavanaugh, accused in June of 2011 of grand theft, forgery and contracting without a license, plead no contest to the charges on Friday, Feb. 16.

According to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Lisa Schon, the entered plea has the same legal effect as a guilty plea.

Cavanaugh, 42, the owner of Design 101 Interiors located at the Los Gatos Shopping Center on North Santa Cruz Avenue, is accused of acting as a contractor by offering to fabricate or cut and install a granite countertop in a Saratoga home rather than just provide the design services, said Schon.

Cavanaugh had been previously warned by the Contractor State Licensing Board not to provide services beyond designing, according to Schon.

Cavanaugh inflated her prices to cover some losses and forged the homeowner's signature on some furniture order forms, Schon said, adding that the Saratoga victim lost about $100,000.

Cavanaugh is scheduled to appear in court for sentencing at 9 a.m., June 4 before Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Philip H. Pennypacker in department 30. She could face up to six months in Santa Clara County Jail and up to five years probation, Schon added.

Four victims were involved in the complaint and Cavanaugh plead no contest to all of them, she explained.

She will also have to obey a restitution order stipulated in the plea agreement, which means she'll have to pay one couple $250,000 and $130,000 to the other victims.

"I'm extremely pleased that there was a restitution order for what the victims requested," Schon said.

Calls to Cavanaugh's attorney, Dana Corey, weren't immediately returned by the time of this posting.

Wanda Ball March 21, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Being a small business person is hard. It's a shame when a disgruntled or vindictive client who knows how to work the system can cost you 100 times the problem they created and cost many of your employees their jobs.
Reyna March 21, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I have worked with interior designers for almost 30 years. I have yet to meet one that has not offered services that go beyond design. It is an assumption to beleive that the prices are inflated. Based on what??? You can call 5 different granite fabricators and you will get 5 different prices. Give me a break. I,m sure she was worth a few extra bucks. An interior designer can be invaluable. I cannot imagine living with a countertop forever that was mis placed in my kitchen because of lack of foresight.
Larry Arzie March 21, 2012 at 05:23 PM
After graduating from San Jose State's Art department I taught a class in Business Aspect of Interior Design. I drummed it into the heads of future designers that you can sell wall paper, you can sell carpet, you can sell product but if it is attached to the house you need a valid California Contractors License. In the 35 years of operating Los Gatos Porch we lined up the sub contractors for the client and the client paid them directly. You can charge the client a % of the bill if agreed in advance. It is pretty common in our industry to not understand California's law but they are there to protect the whole. These things happen and I doubt there was malice intended I always worked on the premise that the client is right no matter the cost and worked out mutual solutions. This should never have gone to the justice system. Now that this it is legally resolved, both parties need to move on and learn from the experience.
Phyllis Scargle March 21, 2012 at 05:59 PM
We did a remodel of our home with Julie as our designer. Our experience with her was incredibly positive. She provided a design that met our requirements and worked with our contractor to make certain that the vision was translated into reality. There are always issues in a remodel, but Julie gracefully managed every one of them. She never was satisfied until we were happy. Every invoice was reviewed carefully by me - and there was never anything that needed to be questioned. Because of the complexity of the structure of our home and the changes we were making, we worked with Julie for over a year so we got to know her well. My takeaway from my experience: Julie cares deeply about her work and her clients. She is incredibly talented (our house won awards - but more importantly, we love it). Julie is absolutely honest and ethical. I have acted as a reference for her many times and I have recommended her to friends. I will happily continue to do so now that this is behind her. And that's the good news here. It is behind her. Time for everyone to move on.
Julia Patchett March 21, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Give me a break. You don't plea out if you're truly innocent. This girl is obviously guilty of the charges she is accused of. Bottom line, forgery is a felony and if somebody signed my name to a legal document without my consent I would go after her just like these 4 other families have. Good for them!
karen pike March 21, 2012 at 06:46 PM
The media has been extremely one-sided on this story. It seems Julie is "guilty until proven innocent". Having known Julie for many years, and having been the recipient of her design expertise, I find these allegations preposterous. She has been nothing but straightforward and honest in all my dealings with her. It is sad to see that a wealthy, vindictive client can cause such turmoil to a small business owner. The settlement is not about guilt or innocence, it is about moving on with life. I look forward to hearing her side of the story now that the case is settled.
Jan & Dennis Reeder March 21, 2012 at 07:39 PM
In 2003 Julie did a fantastic job transforming our kitchen. We have been working with her ever since. We just completed a home office with her and it also exceeded our expectations. In our experience, Julie stands behind her work and takes care of her clients. She has always been more than fair with us and we plan to continue working with her on all our future projects.
Louis Deluca March 22, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Finding a designer or contractor that you can trust is the #1 importance to every homeowner. Finding one that is accused by 4 different people and the state of California for felony crimes of grand theft, forgery, contracting without a license, price gouging is absolutely a nightmare. She plead no contest. That means the evidence against here was so incriminating that they had no defense. She took what would of been a stiffer sentence for her plea bargain. We have all been ripped off and, we all know how it angers us when it happens. I would never to do business with her. I thank the California Superior Court system for understanding the crime that was done to these people, and the penalties against Julie. There were 4 separate family's that were ripped off and lied to here. Plus the State Contractors license Board. I hope she gets the maximum sentence.
mark d uniat March 23, 2012 at 01:54 AM
These are very interesting comments and testimonials. Certainly if there were any violations of the law, these violations should be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. I find the "contracting without a license" statements to be somewhat dubious, to say the least. I have been a licensed, bonded and insured painting contractor in this area for 30+ years- doing peerless work, I may add. Most of the painting crews working inside the town limits employ "illegals"- which make the employing enterprise or "contractor" in violation California State Contractor Licensing provisions. Where's the "outrage" over this?!! Do I have "protection" as a FULLY LEGAL and compliant business.... actually, no. Most, if not all, licensing entities are solely interest in the 'fees' they collect. They do next to nothing to protect the consumer, much less the legitimate contractor. Question: If I operate a legal and compliant company and my competition does not- how does "equal protection" play into this? PLEASE Hire the reputable, and the very, very, very few remaining skilled painting contractors. Though I am staying quite busy repairing homes ruined by the incompetent ones- and they are legion... Mark Uniat dba Uniat Painting
Jim McConnell March 29, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Wise up, these aren't "allegations" they are real criminal charges and guess what? She plead no contest which is the same as pleading guilty. If she was truly innocent and this was a wrongful case then why didn't she stand up in court and make a full throated NOT GUILTY plea? Maybe when her attorney pulled her aside and asked the $69.00 question: 'What will these witnesses say?' It was then that Julie fessed up and admitted her culpability in this crime!
sharon April 04, 2012 at 11:51 PM
She is a disgrace to the design community. This case should have gone to the judicial system. She was warned by the state to not practice outside her scope as a designer. That means not selling goods permanently affixed or funneling money through her business to the fabricators as if she was a contractor. She intended to do this and continued to do so. She also forged document and has to pay restitution in the sum of $100,00 and $250000 and plead no contest. What a disgrace to true designers who work really hard and don't steal.
Larry Arzie April 05, 2012 at 04:32 AM
Sheila, All is not black and white and it is sometimes expedient to plead no contest. The state regulations were lobbied in place by the construction/contractor industry. Much of it is silly such as hiring a contractor to install the wallpaper. Is the wallpaper hanger a bonded contractor. I don,t think so. Where safety concerns are important such as construction, wiring, and plumbing then a contractor is mandatory. In some cases the need is so blurred that it is often in the best financial interest of the client to process the work under the designers shingle. Unfortunately problems occur but they should never have gotten to this point. Now that the matter is resolved let everyone be aware.
DANETTE CREWSE December 24, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Larry Arzie December 25, 2012 at 06:11 PM
This is a country of second chances.


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