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CSLB Press Release - 05/01/2008

Contractors State License Board Stings Coachella Valley Fraud Suspects in Two-Day Undercover Operation

Consumers are warned of risks as 32 phony contractors are arrested.

SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and partners from the Palm Springs Police Department and the Riverside County District Attorney's Office are warning Coachella Valley residents to be aware before hiring people for home improvement projects. The warning comes after a two-day undercover operation in the Warm Springs area of Palm Springs led to the arrest of 32 suspected phony contractors.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, members of CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners at a sting house and invited suspected unlicensed operators to bid on projects including landscaping, fencing, concrete, swimming pool plastering and decking, flooring and painting. When suspects bid more than $500 for a job they were arrested and given a Notice to Appear (NTA) in Riverside County Superior Court to answer misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license. California law requires a state contractor's license for home improvement jobs that are valued at $500 or more in labor and materials.

28 of the suspects will also face a misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising. CSLB investigators also gave administrative citations to 26 suspects. Those carry total potential civil penalties of $46,750. One of those arrested is a three-time offender. Another was a repeat offender. Several suspects showed up without a valid drivers' license and had to arrange for someone to pick them up.

The suspects were identified through ads in newspapers and online, as well as from leads provided by licensed contractors. One phony contractor was invited to the sting after a CSLB investigator saw him working at a house two doors from the sting site.

Unlicensed operators are part of a huge underground economy that may not be such a bargain for the homeowners who use them. "Unlicensed operators will often underbid legitimate contractors," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "It is not unusual for these individuals to have other run-ins with the law and not be qualified to do the work they are hired for. Homeowners may end up paying twice for a job when they have to hire a professional to fix the problem."

Homeowners seldom realize the risks they take when hiring Illegal operators. These phony contractors rarely have workers' compensation or liability insurance. If a worker gets hurt they could turn around and come after the homeowner to pay their medical expenses. In addition, homeowners have little recourse when something goes wrong because they are dealing with someone operating outside of the law. "Some unlicensed operators deliberately target trusting and vulnerable people," added Registrar Sands. "They can take your money and be gone before you realize what has happened."

The suspects given NTA's are scheduled to appear in Riverside Superior Court in Indio on July 1 and 2, 2008.

The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when hiring a contractor:

  • Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door.
  • Verify the contractor's license by checking online or via CSLB's automated phone service at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752)
  • Make sure all workers are covered by workers' compensation insurance.
  • Don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less.
  • Don't pay cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
  • Check references; get three bids and a written contract.
  • Contact the CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.

Unlicensed operator suspects cited for unlicensed activity and/or illegal advertising:

Name/Business Age City of Residence Violation
John Sanchez, Jr.
Christian Brothers Handyman Services
28 Coachella B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
David Soriano, Sr.
Christian Brothers Handyman Services
51 Coachella B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Bartell Donovan, Jr.
Donovan & Alcorn Handyman Services
27 Palm Springs B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Jerry Alcorn
Donovan & Alcorn Handyman Services
25 Palm Springs B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Douglas Holly
One Stop Maintenance
44 Cathedral City B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Gregory Miler, Jr.
Miller Time Construction
36 Victorville B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Marc Charbonneau
All American Services
40 Rancho Cucamonga B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Juan Barbosa
Lopez Tile
25 Cathedral City B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Dennis Fermoile
Hardwood Installations
46 Morongo Valley B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Angel Ruiz 24 Romoland B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Ronald Carlson
We Do Home Repairs
N/A Desert Hot Springs B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
William Murphy, Jr.
Bill Murphy
50 Cathedral City B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Jaime Rangel
Block Brick Tile Concrete
51 Yucca Valley B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Martin Carzon
Ceramic Tile Installer
34 Colton B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
William Sullivan
Inland Quality Flooring
56 San Bernardino B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Raul Angulo
Raul Angulo Stoneworks
39 Coachella B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Pablo Rivera
J.R. Construction
37 Palm Desert B&P 7153 (a)
Joey Padilla
J and J Property Management
39 Rancho Cucamonga B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
James Shaw 46 Palm Springs B&P 7028 (a)
Rutilo Pineda
Handyman Service
47 Beamount B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Angel Ruiz 24 Romoland B&P 7028 (a)
Fred Portuguez
Fred Portuguez Faux Painting/Regular Painting
49 Cathedral City B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Randy Martinez
Sunrise Pools & Spas
23 Cathedral City B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Jose Salomon
All Desert Gardening
39 Palm Desert B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
James Laker
Jack Trades
51 Palm Springs B&P 7028 (a)
Adam River
Desert Home Repair
27 Moreno Valley B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Rafael Munoz
Ralph Painting
51 Cochella B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Adrian Marquez
Adrian Ortega
31 Palm Desert B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Jonathan Alvear 23 Thermal B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Daniel Juckes
Quality Carpentry
30 Palm Desert B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Benjamin Ramirez
Benjamin's Concrete Services
47 Cathedral City B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Tessa Goss
Palm Dreams
62 Palm Desert B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
Michael Lujan
The Leak Detectors
49 Chino B&P 7028 (a)
B&P 7027.1
B&P 119(c)

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors is available on the CSLB Website or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 315,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2006-07, the CSLB obtained nearly $45 million in ordered restitution for consumers. The CSLB is also a partner in Governor Schwarzenegger's Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition, a multi-agency group focused on enforcing the state's labor laws and regulations.