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Undercover Sting Nets 121 Contractors

Thursday, April 3, 2014

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More than 120 California-based contractors, including 56 painters, were nabbed in the state’s latest round of undercover sting operations, aimed at cracking down on unlicensed operators.

The roundup, known as the “California Spring Blitz,” was conducted March 25-27 in nine locations across the state, and included a repeat offender who bid $48,000 to install a new driveway, according to authorities.

CSLB

This video shows undercover investigators posing as homeowners seeking bids for a variety of projects and many of the suspected unlicensed contractors submitting bids for the jobs.

Such stings are conducted by the state’s Contractors State License Board. The Board aggressively monitors contractor licensing, insurance and advertising.

The CSLB reported that 115 of the 121 suspects may face misdemeanor charges for contracting without a license after being caught in the sting. The penalty for a conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Crackdown Details

CSLB said that among those arrested were repeat offenders; a man who is awaiting trial on an assault with a deadly weapon charge; and someone who was caught in not one, but two different stings.

CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), along with partners from a variety of local law enforcement agencies, executed the stings.

The areas covered were Bass Lake (Madera County); Clovis (Fresno County); Dana Point (Orange County); Hanford (Kings County); Palos Verdes Estates (Los Angeles County); Sacramento (Sacramento County); San Jose (Santa Clara County); Vista (San Diego County); and Woodland (Yolo County).

The investigators posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvements, such as painting, drywall, landscaping, decking, cabinets, flooring, fencing, masonry, concrete, and tree removal work.

Targets of the Sweep

A majority of those caught were identified through illegal ads posted on craigslist.org, according to CSLB.

For example, after seeing his ad posted on craigslist, CSLB investigators invited Martin Villegas, of North Highlands, to the Sacramento sting, the CSLB said. Villegas showed up with two other men and gave a $1,200 bid for landscaping work. That led to his first notice to appear for contracting without a license, according to the authorities.

Blitz
CSLB

“Unlicensed, uninsured operators are in your neighborhoods every day, putting youand your family at risk,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “Home improvement projects are expensive, so always make sure you’re hiring a licensed contractor who can do the job right the first time.”

“His brush with the law didn’t appear to slow down Villegas,” CSLB reported.

The next day, he showed up at another sting location in nearby Woodland, where he gave a different team of CSLB undercover investigators a $2,150 bid for exterior painting, landscaping and concrete work.

There, Villegas was issued a second notice to appear, the authorities said.

Moreover, some of the suspects targeted during the operations were on CSLB’s radar after having consumer complaints filed against them.

In one case, a suspect was cited by CSLB “after a refusing to take care of a paint job he botched,” the CSLB said. During the sweep, the suspect was more than willing to give an undercover investigator $1,200 bid for painting, which led to a notice to appear.

The CSLB noted that its operation totals may increase as some suspects are expected to provide their bids via text, email or fax at a later date.

Other Charges Possible

In addition to the misdemeanor charges noted above, 94 suspects may be charged with illegal advertising. State law requires contractors to place their license number in all print, broadcast, and online advertisements.

Those without a license can advertise to perform jobs valued at less than $500, but the ad must state that they are not a licensed contractor. The penalty is a fine of $700 to $1,000.

CSLB
CSLB

Investigators offered guidance on how to obtain a license in California.

Seven others may be charged with requesting an excessive down payment. In California, a home improvement project down payment cannot exceed 10 percent of the contract total or $1,000, whichever is less. This misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine.

Nineteen of the suspected unlicensed contractors also were issued “Stop Orders.” CSLB investigators can halt job site activity when any person with or without a contractor license does not have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees.

Failure to comply with a Stop Order can result in misdemeanor charges and penalties, including 60 days in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines, according to the CSLB.

The CSLB licenses and regulates California’s 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States.

   

Tagged categories: Business operations; Contractors State License Board; Criminal acts; Licensing; Painters; Residential contractors

Comment from Ron Cros, (4/4/2014, 6:19 PM)

Would like to see more of these


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