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CSLB Press Release - 07/19/13

Contractors State License Board Stings Dozens during Simultaneous Statewide Undercover Operations

Suspects include convicted felon and registered sex offender

SACRAMENTO — Nearly 80 people face various criminal charges after being caught this week by the Contractors State License Board(CSLB) during 13 undercover sting operations at seven locations throughout California.

Among those arrested in CSLB’s summer California Blitz were a convicted felon, a registered sex offender, and two suspects caught with drugs or drug paraphernalia.

Investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) conducted stings on July 17 and 18, 2013, in Artesia (Los Angeles County), Fresno (Fresno County), Long Beach (Los Angeles County), Oxnard (Ventura County), Redding (Shasta County), Sacramento (Sacramento County), and South Lake Tahoe (El Dorado County). SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvement projects, including painting, electrical, landscaping, flooring, tile, concrete, ornamental metal, fencing, and tree removal work.

A total of 79 individuals were arrested, given a Notice to Appear (NTA) in Superior Court, and now may face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028). The penalty for a conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. At least one suspect is a repeat offender and could face a mandatory 90-day jail sentence if convicted a second time.

Fifty-two of the individuals also may be charged with 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 penalty is a fine of $700 to $1,000.

Thirteen others may be charged with requesting an excessive down payment (Business and Professions Code section 7159.5). In California, a home improvement project down payment cannot exceed 10 percent 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.

Thirteen of the phony contractors also were issued Stop Orders (Business and Professions Code section 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.

Sting totals may increase as some suspects are expected to provide their bids via email or fax at a later date. A majority of those caught this week were identified through illegal ads on craigslist.org.

“CSLB and its partners in law enforcement are serious about enforcing California’s consumer protection laws,” says says CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “Unlicensed, illegal activity that puts homeowners at risk and legitimate contractors at a competitive disadvantage will not be tolerated.”

STING NOTES

Artesia (July 17-18)

• Arrest of 11 suspected unlicensed contractors

• When investigators identified themselves and told the suspect he was in a sting, the suspect said his identification was in his truck. Instead of getting it, he drove away, leaving behind his cell phone and paperwork.

• A suspect asked investigators not to give him an NTA because it would violate his parole. He received an NTA.

Fresno (July 17-18)

• Arrest of 10 suspected unlicensed contractors

• One suspect didn’t show up for his appointment on day one of the sting because he was arrested the night before at a local gaming casino. The suspect’s wife called the CSLB investigator and rescheduled for day two. Both showed up to give a bid. But, while in the backyard, they left abruptly, hurried to their car, and left.

• One suspect gave a bid of $3,300 for landscaping, including $500 for each sprinkler valve.

Long Beach (July 17-18)

• Arrest of 15 suspected unlicensed contractors

• One unlicensed suspect who gave investigators a bid of $1,400 for interior painting showed a portfolio of his other work that included demolition, plumbing and roofing.

• One suspect brought two employees and supplies with him, expecting to get the job and start right away. As the employees started to unload their tools, the boss received his NTA.

Oxnard (July 17-18)

• Arrest of 12 suspected unlicensed contractors

• One suspect was a convicted felon on parole and also in possession of drug paraphernalia. He was taken into custody.

• One suspect is a registered sex offender.

• It took investigators more than two hours to properly identify one suspect who had a long list of aliases.

• Oxnard Code Enforcement issued 15 citations to suspects who didn’t have a city business license. Redding (July 17 only)

• Arrest of 8 suspected unlicensed contractors

Sacramento (July 17-18)

• Arrest of 11 suspected unlicensed contractors

• Two arrested were taken to jail: One for possession of an illegal substance; the other for possession of drug paraphernalia and having an arrest warrant.

South Lake Tahoe (July 17-18)

• Arrest of 12 suspected unlicensed contractors

• Six of those arrested are residents of Nevada.

• One suspect bid $9,800 for a new deck; another bid $8,000 for landscaping work.

More than 35 people from CSLB and the following agencies took part in the two-day operation:

Location Notices to Appear
Partner Agencies
Artesia

Los Angeles County

11 Department of Consumers Affairs Division of Investigation
Fresno

Fresno County

10 Fresno County District Attorney’s Office
Long Beach

Los Angeles County

15 Long Beach Police Department

Department of Consumers Affairs Division of Investigation

Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office

Oxnard

Ventura County

12 City of Oxnard Police Department

City of Oxnard Code Enforcement

Ventura County District Attorney’s Office

Redding

Shasta County

21 Shasta County District Attorney’s Office
Sacramento

Sacramento County

11 Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office

Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigation

South Lake Tahoe

El Dorado County

12 El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office

California Department of Insurance

Arrest tallies from specific sting locations are available by contacting CSLB’s Public Affairs Office (see page one contacts).

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 (2757). Also, visit CSLB’s website for tips about how to hire a contractor and to sign up for CSLB email alerts.

The California Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. 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 2012-13, CSLB helped recover nearly $44 million in ordered restitution for consumers.