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CSLB Press Release - 12/05/12

CSLB Catches Dozen Unlicensed Operators in Camarillo Undercover Sting

All must appear in Superior Court to face illegal contracting, advertising charges


SACRAMENTO — In its ongoing battle against the underground economy, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), along with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office and Camarillo Police Department, conducted an undercover sting at a commercial property in Camarillo on November 28 and 29, 2012, where 12 individuals were arrested and given notices to appear (NTAs) in Superior Court.

During the operation, CSLB investigators posed as property owners who were seeking painting, floor covering, and concrete improvements, as well as tree removal services. Suspect leads were gathered from advertisements in local newspapers and pamphlets, business cards and fliers, and online bulletin board sites, such as craigslist. Individuals who bid more than $500 for the work were arrested and ordered to appear in Ventura County Superior Court on January 14 and 15, 2013, to face misdemeanor charges.

Eleven of the 12 were 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. 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 results in 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 large amount of cash was discovered on several of those arrested, which is not uncommon for those who operate in the underground economy where paying workers under the table is their illegal way of keeping wages lower, and avoiding required taxes and insurance.

Eleven also face an additional misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code section 7027.1). State law requires that contractors include 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.

“Many consumers don’t realize the risk they take when hiring someone who isn’t properly licensed to work, whether the project is for their home or a commercial property,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “They think they’re saving money, but many end up paying more in the long run.”

One individual was issued a Stop Order for not having the proper workers’ compensation insurance for his employee. Job site activity is halted when CSLB investigators issue a Stop Order to a contractor – licensed or unlicensed – who 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.

If someone is hurt while working on the owners’ property, the owner may be liable. “Don’t take a contractor’s word that they have proper coverage,” Sands said. “Check with the bidder’s workers’ compensation insurance company to make sure the policy is still valid and covers all the workers.”


DAY 1 NOTICES TO APPEAR

SUSPECT'S NAME

CITY OF RESIDENCE

LICENSE CLASSIFICATION
VIOLATIONS
Daryl Flores Pedroza

Ventura

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

Illegal advertising

Dave Andrew Peters

Westlake Village

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

Illegal advertising

Richard Alarcon

Cayucos

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license

Illegal advertising

Ronald Paul Steiger Jr.

Ventura

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license

Illegal advertising

Stop Order

Luis Manuel Calderon

Oxnard

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Illegal advertising
Cornelio Ayala-Bravo

Oxnard

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license

Illegal advertising

Miguel Acevedo Aguilar

Los Angeles

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

Illegal advertising

Joseph Lee McKeen

Oak View

B - General Building Contractor Contracting without a license

Illegal advertising


DAY 2 NOTICES TO APPEAR

SUSPECT'S NAME

CITY OF RESIDENCE

LICENSE CLASSIFICATION
VIOLATIONS
James Alexander Marsh

Camarillo

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license

Illegal advertising

Juan Luis Huerta

Oxnard

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

Illegal advertising

Jorge Ramirez-Rodriguez

North Hollywood

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license
Guy Allan MacLaury

Newberry Park

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license

Illegal advertising


CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring anyone to work on their property:

  • Only hire state-licensed contractors. Ask to see the license and a photo ID to verify their identity.
  • Always check the license number on CSLB's website, and make sure employees are covered by workers' compensation insurance.
  • Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special 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, and get a written contract with signed change orders for any additions or amendments to the contract.

The Contractors State License Board licenses and regulates California's 300,000 contractors, operating under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. It 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. 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 to receive automatic CSLB email alerts.