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CSLB Press Release - 11/09/12

Contractors State License Board Uses Disciplinary Tools on Unlicensed Contractors Caught in Fair Oaks Undercover Sting

Some face criminal charges, others receive administrative citations and fines


SACRAMENTO — One of the Contractors State License Board's (CSLB) primary responsibilities is enforcing California’s construction laws. CSLB has a number of tools it can use to discipline those caught contracting without a state-issued license. Investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), in partnership with the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and Department of Consumer Affairs' Division of Investigation, used two of those tactics this week—Notices to Appear in Superior Court and administrative citations.

At a Fair Oaks undercover sting near North Ridge Country Club on November 7, 2012, SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners and solicited home improvement work from suspects who were believed to be working without a state license. Suspects bid on jobs ranging from tree removal to landscaping, fencing, and painting.

A total of four suspects who bid more than $500 were arrested and given Notices to Appear (NTA) in Sacramento County Superior Court on December 5, 2012, to face misdemeanor charges. Three of the four are being charged with contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028). In California, all home improvement jobs totaling $500 or more in combined labor and material costs must be performed by CSLB-licensed contractors.

The three will face an additional misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code section 7027.1). 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 fourth suspect will be charged with being an unregistered salesperson (Business and Professions Code section 7153). All salespeople working for a contractor must be registered with CSLB.

First conviction penalties for contracting without a license include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. A second conviction mandates from 90 days to one year in county jail, plus as much as $5,000 in fines. A third conviction also has a mandatory 90-day jail sentence and fines of up to $10,000.

A total of five others caught in the sting were not arrested, but received administrative citations, with fines totaling $5,650. Three were cited for illegal advertising, with associated fines for those citations ranging from $400 to $1,000. Two were cited for contracting without a license and illegal advertising, with those fines ranging from $750 to $1,500. One, a former licensee whose license expired in July 2011, was cited for working with an expired license (Business and Professions Code section 7114) and aiding and abetting unlicensed activity (Business and Professions Code section 7117.5c). He was fined $1,000.

It also is important to note that a number of the suspects caught in this week’s sting were identified from their ads on craigslist. CSLB issued a consumer alert in June, and second news release in September, urging homeowners to verify all contractor information that appears in online bulletin boards with CSLB’s Instant License Check.

“Many consumers don’t realize the risk they take when they hire someone who isn’t properly licensed to work in or around their home,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “While they think they’re saving money, many end up paying more in the long run.” One of the biggest risks property owners face with unlicensed operators is that they rarely carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. Without it, if someone is hurt while on the owners’ property, the owner may be liable. “Don’t take a contractor’s word that they have proper coverage. Check with the bidder’s workers’ compensation insurance company to make sure the policy is still valid and covers all the workers,” added Sands.

NOTICES TO APPEAR

SUSPECT'S NAME

CITY OF RESIDENCE

LICENSE CLASSIFICATION
VIOLATIONS
Leafa Tola Vilieuga

Sacramento

C-13 - Fencing

C-27 - Landscaping

Unregistered Home Improvement Salesperson
Michael Lynn Waggoner

Loomis

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license

Illegal advertising

Hector Yobany Gonzalez Contreras

Sacramento

C-61/D-49 - Tree Service Contracting without a license

Illegal advertising

Jose Garcia

Rancho Cordova

C-27 - Landscaping Contracting without a license

Illegal advertising

ADMINISTRATIVE CITATIONS

SUSPECT'S NAME

CITY OF RESIDENCE

LICENSE CLASSIFICATION
VIOLATIONS

FINE AMOUNT

Juan Vega-Moreno

Sacramento

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Illegal advertising

$1,000

Jesse Becerra

Pleasant Grove

C-13 - Fencing Illegal advertising

$400

Gary Eugene Culverson

Roseville

C-27 - Landscaping Contracting without a license

Illegal advertising

$1,500

Jose Margarito Escobar

Sacramento

C-27 - Landscaping Illegal advertising

$1,000

Chad Cornell

Citrus Heights

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Aiding and abetting unlicensed activity

Acting as contractor with expired license

$1,000

Rusty Cornell

Citrus Heights

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license

Illegal advertising

$750

CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring anyone to work on their home or business:

  • Only hire licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID to verify their identity.
  • Always check the license number on CSLB’s Instant License Check feature to make sure the license is in good standing, and that employees are covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Never make a down payment of more than 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry speial bonds to protect consumers. These exceptions are noted on CSLB's website.
  • Don't pay in cash, and don't let payments get ahead of the work.
  • Get at least three bids, check references, get a written contract, and make sure you understand all terms before signing the contract.

The California Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on CSLB’s website or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752). You also can sign up for CSLB email alerts. CSLB licenses and regulates California’s 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2011-12, CSLB helped recover nearly $36 million in ordered restitution for consumers. .