Contractors State License Board Leads Multi-Agency Crackdown on Phony Contractors in Yolo County
Undercover operations snares dozens of illegal operators
SACRAMENTO - Three dozen unlicensed people posing as contractors were caught in undercover sting operations concentrated over the last week in Yolo County. It was a two pronged mission taking place in Woodland last Wednesday & Thursday (September 20-21) and in West Sacramento yesterday. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) conducted the operations with support from the Department of Insurance, Yolo County District Attorney's Office, Yolo County Sheriff's Department and the West Sacramento Police Department.
Members of CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) members posed as homeowners and invited suspects to the two different sting locations to bid on various home improvement jobs ranging from landscaping and concrete to painting, marble and tile work. The individuals targeted included those arrested in previous stings, from complaint files and ads in newspapers and mailers. When the bids exceeded the legal limit of $500 (labor & materials), they were arrested.
36 phony contractors (Woodland 21, West Sacramento 15) were given a Notice to Appear (NTA) before a Yolo County Superior Court judge in November to face misdemeanor charges. That carries a maximum six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 fine for a first-time conviction. Among those arrested and taken to jail in Woodland was Talaiasi Finau, who had earlier convictions of contracting without a license in California and was on parole in Nevada for a similar conviction. When Finau was arrested, investigators found him in possession of contracts totaling almost $160,000. He also had receipts for payments to him that totaled almost $230,000. Three others were also taken to jail; two for using phony license numbers and one for not having any identification.
Administrative citations were issued for four of the unlicensed operators. The Department of Insurance and Yolo County District Attorney's Office found a total of nine violations of workers' compensation law. In three cases, unlicensed operators correctly said the jobs were too big for them to legally perform.
"The CSLB and our partners are serious about going after people who break the law and put consumers in danger," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Not only are unlicensed operators breaking the law, many are convicted criminals, not qualified to do the work, and put homeowners at a serious financial risk."
"We are grateful to the Contractors State License Board for their efforts in coordinating with our Code Enforcement Officer to halt illegal activities of unlicensed contractors," said Yolo County Board of Supervisors Chairman Frank Sieferman, Jr. "I also want to thank our Sheriff and District Attorney investigators who have also participated in this important effort to protect the residents of Yolo County."
The CSLB urges homeowners to be careful before inviting any contractor into their house or agreeing to have any work done. Ask to see their state contractor's license and go online or call CSLB's automated phone system to verify that the license is valid. 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)
- Never 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
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 2005-06, the CSLB helped consumers get more than $36 million in restitution.
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