Man Wanted on Felony Warrants and Gun Toting Operator Are Among The Unlicensed Contractors Nabbed During Sting Operation in Visalia
Contractors Board Warns Consumers About Importance of Only Hiring Licensed Contractors
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is warning consumers about the dangers of hiring unlicensed contractors following a successful sting operation in Tulare County. CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), in cooperation with the Tulare County District Attorney's Office, conducted the undercover operation in Visalia on Thursday. The sting underscores the fact that it can be dangerous to invite unlicensed contractors into your home.
The SWIFT undercover operatives called phone numbers listed in local want ads and invited the unlicensed operators to bid on various projects. Eighteen suspects showed up at the sting house to bid on jobs that included house painting, tree removal, landscaping and fencing. When they were found to be unlicensed, 13 were arrested and issued Notices to Appear (NTA) in Superior Court. One civil citation was also given. Violators can face a maximum of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine for a first offense. The fines and penalties keep going up with additional offenses.
During the SWIFT sting, Tulare County District Attorney investigators arrested one suspect that had numerous outstanding felony warrants and another suspect that was carrying a concealed, loaded weapon. "We can't emphasize this enough," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands "Always check to see if a contractor is licensed. It is a small step to ensure that the person who works on your home or property is a law abiding individual."
The objective of these undercover stings, which are conducted around the State, is to level the playing field for licensed contractors competing in the local business area, and to educate and protect consumers from fraud and scam artists.
By law, the CSLB must license all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials). Because of their non-compliance with the workers compensation guidelines, unlicensed contractors often submit lower bids on jobs. If a worker is injured on the job, the homeowner could be deemed liable. And, if a deal goes bad with unlicensed contractors, the homeowner has very few options.
Consumers can verify a contractor's license status 24 hours a day using the CSLB's Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov or toll-free automated telephone system at (800) 321-CSLB (2752). They can also download or order helpful publications, such as "What You Should Know Before You Hire A Contractor", free of charge.
The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a building contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license.
- Don't rush into decisions and don't hire the first contractor who comes along.
- Verify the contractor's license by checking on-line at www.cslb.ca.gov.
- Don't pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less.
- Don't pay cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract.
- Contact the CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 278,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually.
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