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CSLB Press Release - 01/25/13

CSLB Undercover Sting in Fresno Targets Phony Contractors Advertising on Craigslist

No shortage of unlicensed operators using popular website to take advantage of consumers


SACRAMENTO — When Contractors State License Board (CSLB) investigators set up targets for an undercover sting operation, one of the first places they look is craigslist.org. That’s because unlicensed contractors routinely post ads on the online bulletin board. All 11 individuals who were contacted for a sting operation near the Fresno Fairgrounds on January 25, 2013, were found on craigslist.

Eight of the 11 showed up to bid on projects that ranged from painting, ceramic tile, and flooring, to a new roof. All eight gave undercover investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) bids that totaled more than $500 in labor and materials. Home improvement projects valued at $500 or more in labor and materials must be done by a state-licensed contractor. The eight were given notices to appear (NTA) in Superior Court to face a misdemeanor charge of contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028).

Five of the eight could face an additional charge of illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code section 7027.1). California law requires contractors to put their license number in all advertisements. Those who contract for jobs valued at less than $500 may advertise their services, but their ads must state that they are not a licensed contractor. Six of the eight suspects were issued Stop Orders, (Business and Professions Code section 7127), prohibiting them from using employee labor for any jobs until they secure a workers’ compensation insurance policy.

Additionally, four of the suspects were cited for requesting an excessive down payment (Business and Professions Code section 7159.5 (a)(3)(b)). State law prohibits asking for or receiving a down payment larger than 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less. In one instance, a suspect asked for a $3,000 down payment on a $4,000 job. The other three suspects cited asked for 50 percent down.

While seven of the suspects were cited and released, one man, Jorge Mario Acajabon, was taken to jail to serve a 12-day sentence on a no-bail warrant related to a bad check (Penal Code section 476(a)).

“Your home is your biggest investment,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “It pays to invest a few minutes on CSLB's website to make sure the person you hire to work in and around your home is properly licensed.”

The following suspects are scheduled to be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. on March 26, 2013, in Fresno County Superior Court, 1100 Van Ness Avenue, Dept. 402. (Map):


SUSPECT'S NAME

CITY OF RESIDENCE

LICENSE CLASSIFICATION
VIOLATIONS
Rogelio Alvarez, Jr.

Selma

C-35 - Lathing and Plastering Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising,

No workers' compensation insurance,

Stop Order issued

Phillip Frank Ybarra

Clovis

C-54 - Ceramic and Mosaic Tile Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising,

No workers' compensation insurance,

Stop Order issued

James L. Friend

Fresno

C-33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising,

No workers' compensation insurance,

Stop order issued

Jorge Mario Acajabon

Fresno

C-15 - Flooring and Floor Covering

C-33 - Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

Requesting excessive down payment

Julio Francisco Ordonez

Fresno

C-15 - Flooring and Floor Covering

C-33 - Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

Requesting excessive down payment

Jason Thomas Israelian

Fresno

C-15 - Flooring and Floor Covering

C-33 - Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

No workers' compensation insurance,

Stop Order issued

Douglas Alan Lasher II

Clovis

C-39 - Roofing Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising,

Requesting excessive down payment,

Stop Order issued

Hans Vincent Barsness

Fresno

C-39 - Roofing Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising,

Requesting excessive down payment,

Stop Order issued


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

  • Hire only state-licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID to verify their identity.
  • Always check the license number at CSLB's website, or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com to make sure the license is in good standing, and that 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.