State Contractors Board Makes Clean Sweep Around State
Three Communities Targeted At Same Time For Enforcement Actions
SACRAMENTO — This could easily go on record as one of the busiest enforcement weeks for the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) as investigators rounded up Illegal operators in three different communities in the State at one time. The Contractors Board routinely conducts undercover stings or sweeps several times a month in varying locations as part of its mission to protect consumers and educate "would-be" contractors. Two of the three operations (San Rafael and Glendora) were headed by CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) with help from other local agencies. The third sweep (Orange County) was as part of a multi-agency economic task force.
The Board was recently allocated 11 new investigators as part of the new The Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC). The EEE Coalition goes after underground economy activity that takes $60 to $140 billion dollars away from schools, roads and law enforcement and puts it into the pockets of illegal operators. The Coalition is less than 6 months old and has conducted operations around the state at construction sites, restaurants, factories and other industries that have a history of problems with paying under the table along with worker issues.
The operations that took place last Wednesday and Thursday (Nov. 16-17, 2005) included sting houses with decoy homeowners, and sweeps where investigators paid surprise visits to construction sites where illegal activity was suspected. At the sting houses, operators were cited when they bid over the $500. per job legal limit allowed unlicensed contractors. The week's figures totaled: 8 arrests that included two registered sex offenders and 37 people who were issued a Notice to Appear (NTA) in court for contracting without a license. The other arrests included felony repeat offenders who now face even higher fines and jail time after being caught again.
This week's round up of illegal operators show why consumers need to be aware of who they are dealing with. "Anyone who hires a contractor should check out who they hire," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "The first step is making sure they're licensed. Unlicensed operators could very easily have criminal records since they operate outside the law on other levels."
Enforcement Operation Report
CSLB's SWIFT in cooperation with Marin County and San Rafael Police caught 14 unlicensed operators. Suspects were invited to a sting house where they were invited to bid on projects on November 16. The targets included repeat offenders and illegal operators with complaints on file. There were 4 felony arrests that included a registered sex offender from Virginia, two with active warrants and a fourth man on probation for contracting without a license. NTAs were issued to 9 other individuals for unlicensed activity and illegal advertising. Sweeps were also conducted at four Marin sites on Thursday November 17, resulting in two citations and two audits.
CSLB's SWIFT in cooperation with the Glendora Police Department conducted a two-day sting at a house near the Glenoaks Golf Club November 16-17. There were 28 operators that showed up to bid on projects ranging from home improvement to landscaping. 28 were issued NTAs for unlicensed activity. One man used a false name and is a sex offender on parole, another was charged with obstruction of justice and reckless driving. 7 Cars impounded for lack of drivers licenses. The individuals who were invited to the sting were selected from local newspaper ads, mailings or flyers. Each unlicensed operator nabbed in the sting was given a contractor's license application and urged to go straight by "getting a license" before they go after home improvement jobs again. A first violation can result in a maximum six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. A second conviction can result in a mandatory jail sentence of at least 90 days and a $4,500 or more in fines.
Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC) joint agency sweep November 16-17. The sweep teams were made up of specialists from the Employment Development Department (EDD), Department of Industrial Labor Relations, (DIR) and CSLB Investigators. Three teams performed 35 inspections at construction sites where they caught over 145 violations. There were also projected civil penalties or fines of $299,750. Those numbers could go even higher with further investigation. The teams were looking for unlicensed contractors, cash pay, workers compensation problems and other violations.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 292,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2004-05, the CSLB helped consumers get more than $36 million in restitution. For more information about hiring a contractor or how to check one out visit the CSLB Web page at www.cslb.ca.gov or call CSLB's automated phone service at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752)
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