Unlicensed Operator Arrested for Third Time After Attempt to get Government Contract
State Contractors Board credits alert Sacramento Regional Transit employee for tip
SACRAMENTO — An unlicensed landscaper who was arrested a couple times earlier this year for contracting without a license was arrested again by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) when he tried to bid on a government job. A Sacramento Regional Transit (RT) Procurement analyst became suspicious of a new contractor who dropped off a business card and picked up a bid package for concrete work. The analyst checked the license number on the business card at the Contractors Board's Web site and found the number did not match up.
Sangato Mahei Telai and his partner Kolosia Taliauli were invited to discuss their $6,800 bid for concrete work at the RT bidding office in Sacramento on Tuesday. When they arrived, they were met by CSLB's Special Investigation Unit (SIU), CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) and Regional Transit Police and were arrested. Telai was on probation at the time and had an outstanding warrant for contracting without a license. RT police transported the pair to Sacramento County jail where they were booked for "fraudulent use of a license number". The newest felony charges can mean an additional fine of up to $10,000 and one year in jail.
Telai was arrested in March for allegedly ripping off a number of Sacramento area homeowners, including an elderly Elk Grove couple while contracting without a license. He was re-arrested again while out on bail working in a nearby neighborhood. Telai is an unlicensed landscape contractor with addresses in Stockton and East Palo Alto.
"That alert RT employee prevented a mountain of problems by simply checking out the contractor's license number," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "It is a valuable thing to remember whenever you hire a contractor."
By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB. Because many unlicensed operators don't comply with the workers compensation laws, they often submit lower bids on jobs. But, if one of their workers is injured on the job, the homeowner could be liable. And, if a deal goes bad with an unlicensed contractor, the homeowner has very few options.
The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when hiring any contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors
- Verify the license owner, business name and address and ask for a picture I.D.
- Verify the contractor's license at www.cslb.ca.gov or call 1-800-321-CSLB (2752)
- Get three bids and check references
- Get a written contract
- Do not pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less
- Do not let payments get ahead of the work
- Do not pay cash
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. To check out a contractor's license, visit our website at www.cslb.ca.gov or call (800) 321-CSLB (2752).
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