YUBA CITY, CA (MPG) – Criminal charges are pending for 105 people who were caught in 14 different undercover sting operations throughout the state. The operations were conducted in eight cities from June 23rd through 25th by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB).
Among those arrested during CSLB’s summer blitz were three repeat offenders, four suspects with an active arrest warrant, two suspects on probation, one registered sex offender, and three with either revoked or suspended CSLB licenses.
Investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team partnered with several local law enforcement agencies to conduct the operations at homes in Apple Valley (San Bernardino County), Cypress (Orange County), Lafayette (Contra Costa County), Paso Robles (San Luis Obispo County), Sunnyvale (Santa Clara County), San Jose (Santa Clara County), Visalia (Tulare County), and Yuba City (Sutter County).
Investigators called suspected unlicensed operators for home improvement bids that included painting, drywall, landscaping, cabinetry, flooring, fencing, gates, masonry, tile, plumbing, concrete, and tree removal work.
“Several of the suspects we targeted turned out to be repeat offenders and individuals with a criminal history that included drug violations. One admitted to law enforcement officers that he had taken drugs before arriving,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi A. Christenson. “We can’t stress enough the importance of checking the contractor’s license on CSLB’s website before you allow anyone near your home or family.”
Suspects were targeted because of advertisements they posted in online bulletin boards such as craigslist.org, Angie’s List, and Facebook; local newspapers and community pamphlets that included PennySaver, Thrifty Nickel, and Save A Buck; store bulletin boards; home show flyers; and business cards.
Of the individuals arrested, 101 may face misdemeanor charges for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) section 7028). The penalty for a first conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Ninety-two suspects also may be charged with illegal advertising (BPC §7027.1). California law requires contractors to place their CSLB 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.
Ten others may be charged with requesting an excessive down payment (BPC §7159.5). In California, a home improvement project down payment cannot exceed 10% 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.
Seven individuals failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their workers (BPC §7125.4) and three of the phony contractors were also issued Stop Orders (BPC §7127). 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.
Three of the suspects were brazenly using a contractor license number that belongs to a legitimate contractor, which carries a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a one-year jail sentence (BPC §7027.3). “Always be sure to check your contractor’s license number on the CSLB website and ask the contractor for photo identification to verify the person’s identity,” added Christenson.
Blitz totals may increase, as some suspects are expected to provide their bids to undercover investigators at a later date.
In Yuba City (Sutter County), a suspect was jailed for an active warrant related to an unpaid citation from a previous CSLB sting operation; another was on parole. Yuba City police had to counsel neighbors that they could face obstruction of justice charges for flagging down contractors and alerting them to the sting operation. Contact CSLB’s Public Affairs Office for suspect lists from the specific sting locations.
CSLB encourages consumers to always “Check the License First” by visiting www.cslb.ca.gov or calling CSLB’s toll-free automated line (800) 321-CSLB (2752). Also, visit CSLB’s website for tips about how to hire a contractor and to sign up for email alerts.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates California’s 290,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2013-14, CSLB helped recover nearly $51 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
Source: Contractors State License Board