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CSLB Stings More Than 100 in Series of Simultaneous Undercover Sting Operations

SACRAMENTO -The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) conducted five stings in three days throughout the state last week. 21 CSLB investigators participated in the stings September 15, 16, and 17, 2009. A total of 112 people received Notices to Appear (NTA) in court or administrative citations. One went to jail on a $20,000 warrant for domestic violence, and another two for outstanding traffic warrants.

CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) conducts these multi-county blitzes every fall and spring to enhance its smaller sting operations, which take place once a week on average. These operations crack down on the underground economy that harms legitimate, licensed contractors and consumers. The Fall 2009 Blitz involved stings in Los Angeles, Riverside, Monterey, Sacramento, and Yolo Counties.

SWIFT investigators posed as business owners, landlords, or tenants at commercial properties in Monterey and Riverside, and as homeowners in Saugus (Los Angeles County), Sacramento, and Woodland (Yolo County). They solicited bids for a variety of projects, ranging from landscaping, concrete, fencing, painting, and flooring to wrought iron and installation of a swimming pool safety fence.

Investigators primarily targeted those who were previously caught contracting without a license. Six of the people arrested had been caught before. Fortunately, a majority of those contacted for bids said they either had gotten out of the business or the job sounded too big for them to perform-possibly an indication that enforcement operations conducted by CSLB and its partner agencies are improving awareness of state contracting laws.

Other targets were identified from advertisements in various local publications and online, and those identified from leads from local law enforcement or trade associations.

Joining CSLB in the operation were local police and sheriffs' departments, district attorney offices, local building officials, and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. Those who received NTAs will be required to appear in court in November and December to face charges.

Here are some highlights from the various sting sites:

Sacramento

  • One suspect arrested on $20,000 domestic violence warrant.

Saugus

  • One suspect, who was just released after serving four years in state prison for possession and sale of methamphetamines, showed up with his toddler son to give a bid.
  • One suspect who provided a bid for laminate flooring has two unpaid administrative citations with a total civil penalty of $3,000. He was also driving with an expired driver's license.
  • One suspect who provided a bid for a block wall was a previous offender who had paid his prior citations.

Riverside

  • One suspect arrested was on probation for his prior conviction for contracting without a license.
  • Another repeat offender also had an arrest warrant for failing to appear on his previous charge of contracting without a license.
  • One suspect ran from the sting site to avoid getting an NTA. Fortunately, our backup from the Riverside Police Department positively identified the suspect, who will now still face charges.

Monterey

  • One suspect arrested had previously received two CSLB administrative citations. He'll now face criminal charges.
  • Another suspect who was previously cited showed up at the sting with a "partner" who is a licensed plumber. Both men were arrested and received an NTA.
  • One suspect was arrested for a third time on charges of contracting without a license.

Woodland

  • Two individuals were arrested on traffic warrants and released on a promise to appear.

The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when hiring a contractor:

  • Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door.
  • Verify the contractor's license by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com, or via CSLB's automated phone service at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
  • Don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less.
  • Don't pay in cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
  • Check references, obtain three bids, and ask for a written contract.
  • Contact CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.

Sting Details

Location Participating Agencies Highlights
Saugus
Los Angeles County
Contractors State License Board
Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office
Department of Toxic Substances Control
29 Notices to Appear
November 4-12, L.A. County Superior Court (Santa Clarita)
Monterey
Monterey County
Contractors State License Board
Monterey Police Department
Monterey County District Attorney's Office
23 Notices to Appear
November 24-25, Monterey County Superior Court (Salinas)
1 Administrative Citation
Riverside
Riverside County
Contractors State License Board
Riverside Police Department
Riverside County District Attorney's Office
23 Notices to Appear
November 17-24, Riverside County Superior Court (Riverside)
Woodland
Yolo County
Contractors State License Board
Yolo County District Attorney's Office
Woodland Police Department
22 Notices to Appear December 17, 2009 Yolo County Superior Court (Woodland)
5 Administrative Citations
Sacramento
Sacramento County
Contractors State License Board
Sacramento Police Department
9 Notices to Appear November 10, 2009 Sacramento County Superior Court

In 2009, CSLB, which operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs, marks its 80th anniversary of protecting consumers by regulating California's construction industry. Today CSLB licenses about 315,000 contractors. In any given year, complaints are filed against only 3% of licensed contractors. In fiscal year 2008-09, the CSLB helped consumers recover nearly $36 million in ordered restitution.

 

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