Illegal Operators in Moreno Valley Get Wake-up Call from the Contractors State License Board
Dozens nabbed at sting houses during undercover operation
SACRAMENTO — A tract of new homes in the City of Moreno Valley was the bait that lured 45 illegal contracting suspects with the prospect of easy money into a Contractors State License Board (CSLB) sting operation on October 1-2, 2008. They left instead with a Notice to Appear (NTA) and a date in Riverside County Superior Court to face charges for illegal contracting.
The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Unit (SWIFT) partnered with the City of Moreno Valley Building Department for the operation which also included enforcement sweeps for illegal activity in the same housing tract. The Team was joined by additional partners from the Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC) and the Joint Enforcement Strike Force (JESF). Both are coalitions of government agencies that target the financial and legal abuses of the underground economy.
The operations were conducted at the urging of legitimate contractors who face unfair competition from illegal operators and are often called into repair the damage caused by the phony contractors. The suspects were targeted from complaints and illegal ads on the internet and in newspapers. They were invited to bid on projects at two houses that ranged from landscaping and painting to other home improvement projects. When suspects offered bids over $500, they were cited. California law requires a state contractor's license for home improvement jobs that are valued at $500 or more in material and labor.
"Consumers take serious risks when they hire unlicensed people to work on their property," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "If these individuals are breaking the law in one area, there is a good chance they have other legal problems." The majority of the suspects will have their day in court on December 3 & 4, 2008 in Riverside County Superior Court. These are usually misdemeanor charges and carry a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. The penalties increase with each conviction.
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 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 at www.cslb.ca.gov, 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 316,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2006-07, the CSLB helped consumers get almost $45 million in ordered restitution.
Sting Operation Details:
- 45 NTA's (Notice to Appear)
- 1 previously -cited suspects showed up and was cited again
- 47 Sites Visited
- 50 Entities Checked:
- 3 Nonlicensee Citations Issued:
- 44 No Violation:
- $3,000 Civil Penalties Assessed
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