Illegal Operators in San Mateo County Stung in State Contractors Board Undercover Operation
Convicted sex offenders among those caught in sting
SACRAMENTO — Two registered sex offenders were among the individuals caught in a sting set up by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in San Carlos this week. CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners on Tuesday (May 2) and invited suspected unlicensed contractors to a sting house to bid on various home repair and improvement jobs like landscaping and painting. They worked in cooperation with the San Mateo County District Attorney's office, the San Carlos Police and the Internal Revenue Service. The purpose of these operations, which are held statewide on an almost weekly basis, is to highlight the dangers to consumers who hire unlicensed workers, and to educate unlicensed workers about California laws.
SWIFT investigators arrested 10 unlicensed contractors in Tuesday's undercover sting and gave them a "Notices to Appear" (NTA). They will have to answer to charges in court in about one month. The charges carry a maximum of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for the first offense. A second violation carries a mandatory 90-day jail sentence. The IRS will also be review criminal complaints filed against a number of those cited for possible tax evasion charges.
One Contra Costa County man whose picture was posted in the Megan's Law website was cited for bidding illegally for tree services. He did not have an outstanding warrant, but his parole officer was informed about the violation. Another man giving a bid on concrete work was issued a "Notices to Appear" (NTA) and was later arrested on a $100,000 outstanding warrant for PC288 (Lewd and lascivious acts with a child). He originally tried to use his brother's identification. The Driver's license showed the height as 6'02". Investigators say he wasn't even close to that height. The Police took him away.
By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB. In addition, anyone licensed by the CSLB after January 1, 2005 first undergoes a complete background check by the Dept. of Justice before being given a license. "Homeowners need to be careful before inviting any contractor into their house," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Always check out their license first." Also, 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 considered liable. And, if a deal goes bad with an unlicensed contractor, the homeowner has very few options.
Before hiring any contractor, homeowners should go online or call CSLB's automated phone system to verify that he/she holds a valid license. They can also check out the contractor's license history and get bond and personnel information.
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, especially when they will use material they claim is left over from another job;
- 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
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.
Sign Up For News Release Email Alerts
Please type in your email below and click submit.