Illegal Operators Rounded Up in Rancho Cordova Sting by Contractors State License Board
Local man could face felony charges for contracting in emergency zoneSACRAMENTO — A man suspected of ripping off day laborers, and a contractor with a suspended license, who was the target of financial abuse complaints, were among those nabbed by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in a sting operation on Wednesday. Members of CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners during the daylong operation at a storm damaged condominium. They worked closely with the Rancho Cordova Building Department and the Rancho Cordova Police Department to go after blatant abusers.
The SWIFT team received bids from the suspects on projects at the sting house that included landscaping, painting, concrete and fencing. When the bids went over $500 on a job, the men were cited. California law requires a state contractor's license for home improvement jobs that are valued at $500 or more in supplies and labor.
"The suspects who get caught in the Board's sting operations usually have other legal problems." said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Homeowners are taking big risks when they use unlicensed people for work on their property. This latest operation emphasizes the fact that it pays to be cautious about who you hire."
Investigators received tips that Michael Villa, a suspended contractor was financially abusing homeowners in Rancho Cordova. He bid on a storm damaged roof, in a declared State of Emergency zone, which made him eligible for felony charges under state law. He also got a $5,000 administrative citation. Another suspect, Elver Chili Martin, has been under investigation for months. He would allegedly pick up day laborers, and work them for as many as 12 to 14 hour days without pay. He was booked for not having proper identification, had his car towed, and could face additional legal problems along with civil penalties of $15,000.
The remaining suspects bid on regular home improvement projects and were charged with contracting without a license and illegal advertising. These are usually misdemeanor charges and carry a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. The penalties go up with each conviction.
"We take a proactive approach to improve the safety and security of our residents in Rancho Cordova. That's why we were so pleased to cooperate so closely with the CSLB to apprehend unsavory workers," said Tom Trimberger, Chief Building Official for Rancho Cordova. "We will continue to work with the CSLB to ensure that these illegal business practices are actively discouraged in Rancho Cordova."
Unlicensed operators are part of a multi-billion dollar underground economy that takes jobs away from legitimate contractors, and tax dollars from schools, roads and law enforcement. Illegal operators rarely have workers' compensation or liability insurance. Homeowners have little recourse if something goes wrong with an unlicensed operator.
The people who were issued citations are scheduled to appear in Sacramento County Superior Court on March 26.
|NAME||AGE||CITY OF RESIDENCE||VIOLATIONS|
|Viengphone Jack Sidovang||34||Modesto||7028, 7017.1|
|Michael Villa||37||Rancho Cordova||7028, 7028.16, 7027.3
|Chris Alexander||51||Fair Oaks||7028, 7027.1|
|German Fernando Chile Gomez||40||Sacramento||7028. 7027.1|
|Gerald Everts Meacle, Jr.||47||Sacramento||7028|
|Sami S. Kotkavaara||31||Citrus Heights||7028|
|Martin Andrew Isborn||43||Carmichael||7028|
|Toan Nguyen||52||Sacramento||7028.7, 7027.1|
|Victoriano Ponce Garcia||36||North Highlands||7028, 7027.1|
|Erik Stephen Jorrick||40||West Sacramento||7028, 7027.1|
|William West||60||Shingle Springs||7028, 7027.1|
|Jamie Simpson||44||Sacramento||7028, 7027.1|
|Elver Chili Martin||30||Sacramento||7028, 7027.1, 7125.2d
Labor Code 3700.5
|Arthur St. Jean||43||Sacramento||7028, 7027.1|
A+ Construction Handyman
|Elver Danilo Chili Martin||30||Sacramento||7028, 7027.1, 7125d|
|Mel Anthony Hall||37||Fair Oaks||7028, 7027.1|
|Jake Christopher Wills||35||Sacramento||7027.1, 7028|
Business & Profession Code Violations:
7028 - Acting in the capacity of a contractor without a license
7027.1 - Illegal advertising
7028.7 - Citation for unlicensed activity
7125d - Lack of workers compensation insurance
7153 - Selling without registration
7028.16 - Unlicensed activity in declared emergency or disaster zone
7027.3 - Illegal use of suspended license
The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when hiring a contractor:
- 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.
- Check references; get three bids and a written contract.
- 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 314,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2006-07, the CSLB helped consumers get almost $45 million restitution.
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