In drought years, this man promised to drill wells and never showed up. Now he’s in jail.

Edward Mitchell Jr., 47, of Eureka
Edward Mitchell Jr., 47, of Eureka Photo courtesy of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office

A Eureka man was arrested last week on a warrant alleging he collected money from Merced County residents for wells he never drilled at the peak of the drought.

Edward Mitchell Jr., 47, was arrested Wednesday by Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office investigators and the California Contractors State License Board on a $600,000 warrant from Merced County. He was booked into Humboldt County Jail before being transported to Merced County Jail, where he remained Friday on $250,000 bail.

Mitchell is charged with 14 felony counts of obtaining money, labor or property by false pretense and 14 additional counts of diverting construction funds, District Attorney Larry Morse II said.

Between July 2014 and October 2015, the state board investigated complaints that Mitchell accepted deposits from 14 people to drill wells and never returned to complete the work, said Winton Horn, an enforcement supervisor who investigated Mitchell.

Mitchell served as the CEO of Mitchell Drilling Environmental Corp. The company’s contractor’s license was revoked in April 2016, records show.

“It’s good to see that he is going to have to explain to the homeowners where the money went,” Horn said in a statement.

Investigators said a handful of the residents who paid Mitchell experienced additional hardships when the county passed a groundwater ordinance and their well permits expired.

Anyone who has additional information about Mitchell or the case can call the board’s Fresno office at 559-490-0580.