Contractors Board Catches Man on the Run for Two Years
Quick work by enforcement team nabs contractor con artist
SACRAMENTO — It was one of those days when everything went right for the good guys and everything went wrong for the guy running away from them. Investigators from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) were running some routine checks on suspected unlicensed operators in the Oceanside area who have outstanding arrest warrants. One of those men had an active complaint against him with the CSLB.
Yesterday (Thursday) investigators, posing as realtors, invited Jose Ontiveros to bid on an extensive landscaping job. When he showed up at a local diner he was met by CSLB Investigators and two Oceanside Police Detectives who arrested him on two felony warrants, which included identity theft, then took him to jail. At the time Ontiveros was also carrying more than $5,000 in cash and driving a late model customized pickup truck. The Oceanside Police Department has been looking for Ontiveros regarding two complaints.
Just a few of the other complaints against Mr. Ontiveros are:
- Taking $13,000 for a substandard landscaping job then abandoning work;
- Taking $6,000 for landscaping and doing no work; and
- Using a contractor's license number that belonged to a deceased contractor
There could be additional victims out there who haven't come forward. "It was a real team effort by some very highly talented investigators that led to this arrest," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "It also highlights the importance of consumers checking out their contractor before signing papers or paying for work that may never be done."
Before hiring any contractor, homeowners should go online at www.cslb.ca.gov or call CSLB's automated phone system 1-800-321-CSLB (2752) to verify that he/she holds a valid license. Ask to see the contractors "pocket license" then compare that to another form of ID like a driver's license.
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;
- Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door;
- Verify the contractor's license by checking online 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 cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work;
- Get three bids, check references, and a written contract; and
- Contact the CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor
First-time convictions carry a maximum of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine. A following violation carries a mandatory 90-days incarceration plus fines that equal 20% of the work value or $4,500. Other civil and criminal convictions like Identity theft can increase the penalties.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 302,000 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.
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