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More than 100 Arrests in Two Days during CSLB Statewide Undercover Sting Operations

Over 80 construction sites also swept for violations

SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has completed simultaneous undercover sting operations and sweeps in seven cities around the state: Clovis, Yuba City, Santa Ana, Rancho Mirage, Norwalk, Dana Point and Garden Grove.

The operations were conducted by CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) over a two-day period (September 10-11, 2008), partnering with local law enforcement agencies. A total of 108 people were arrested and cited with a Notice to Appear (NTA) for unlicensed contracting activity. Five of the suspects were taken to jail with outstanding arrest warrants, including one sex offender.

SWIFT members posed as homeowners and invited suspected unlicensed operators to the various sting locations to bid on construction jobs that ranged from landscaping, fences and masonry to concrete, tile and painting. Many of the targeted suspects were repeat offenders and industry referrals. "The purpose of these operations is to inform consumers about the dangers of hiring phony contractors," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "We are also reminding unlicensed operators they could end up as a guest at a CSLB sting operation if they break the law."

People who showed up and bid more than $500 on contracting jobs were arrested and given "Notices to Appear" (NTA) before a Superior Court judge where they will answer to misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license and, in many cases, for illegal advertising. The charges carry a maximum of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for the first offense. A second violation carries a mandatory 90-day jail sentence.

Sweeps of 81 construction sites in Garden Grove, Norwalk, and Dana Point was conducted on September 10 by CSLB, in conjunction with local government partners and the Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC). EEEC is Governor Schwarzenegger's task force that targets industries known to be active in the underground economy. A portion of the Santa Ana sting was also coordinated with EEEC and targeted active violators.

The following are highlights from the sting enforcement operations:


Location Agencies Participating Highlights
Clovis, Fresno County (Sting) Contractors State License Board
Fresno County District Attorney's Office
Clovis Police Department
32 Notices to Appear
13 Workers' compensation violations
Yuba City, Sutter County (Sting) Contractors State License Board
Sutter County District Attorney's Office
Department of Motor Vehicles
18 Notices to Appear, 2 warrant arrests, 8 administrative citations, 3 warnings, 8 towed vehicles
Santa Ana, Orange County (Sting) Contractors State License Board
Orange County Sheriff's Department
Orange County District Attorney's Office
Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC)
39 Notices to Appear, 6 administrative follow-ups,
1 arrest on outstanding warrants
Rancho Mirage, Riverside County (Sting) Contractors State License Board
Riverside County District Attorney's Office
21 Notices to Appear
3 administrative citations
Norwalk, Los Angeles County (Sweep) Contractors State License Board
Norwalk Building Department
24 sites visited
19 License entities checked (no violation)
1 Licensee citations issued (no work comp.)
4 Non-licensee citations issued
$6,000.00 Civil Penalties Accessed
Garden Grove, Orange County (Sweep) Contractors State License Board
Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC)
16 sites visited (all licenses in compliance)
Dana Point, Orange County (Sweep) Contractors State License Board 41 sites visited
1 Licensee citations (working out of class)
1 Non-licensee cite issued
2 Non-licensee cites pending
2 Violation warning letters issued
6 (print and/or advertising violation)
$1,500.00 Civil Penalties Accessed

Sting details of note from various locations:

  • Clovis - One licensed contractor was cited for failing to use his license number in advertising, as is legally required. He told investigators that he attracted more business posing as an unlicensed contractor because consumers assume his prices are lower.
  • Yuba City - One suspect received a speeding ticket on her way to bid on a job at the sting house, where she received her second ticket of the day for contracting without a license.
  • Santa Ana - Two years ago a suspected unlicensed operator told CSLB investigators that they have never been able to make a violation stick against him, and never will. He was cited, arrested, and transported by a police car for booking at the Orange County Jail on outstanding warrants.

News media from around the state ran stories about the operation. There were stories featured in the Fresno Bee, the Palm Springs Desert Sun, and Orange County Register along with other major market dailies, radio and TV stations.

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 315,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2007-08, the CSLB obtained nearly $35.2 million in ordered restitution for consumers.

 

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