Unlicensed Contractor Agrees to Restitution to Avoid Prison Time
Man who claimed CSLB would never make a case against him backs down and pleads guilty
SACRAMENTO — An unlicensed contractor arrested by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in Orange County during last fall's California Blitz pleaded guilty this week to a felony count of fraudulent use of a contractor's license, and a misdemeanor count of contracting without a license.
Al Checco, 70, of Huntington Beach, entered his guilty plea in Orange County Superior Court Monday afternoon after years of telling CSLB investigators that the Board had never made a violation stick against him and never would. Checco, owner of Aqua Marble Inc, was ordered to pay nearly $5,000.00 in restitution to victims.
Under the plea agreement, Checco must pay $4,900.00 dollars in restitution to victims, regardless of his ability to pay. He also must pay $4,500.00 in fines to the Orange County District Attorney's Office, more than $2,000.00 in fines to the Orange County Court, plus $2,000.00 that is still outstanding from a prior fine. If Checco fails to make these payments by October 7, 2009, he will face a 270-day sentence in Orange County Jail. Checco and his wife paid outstanding fines and victim restitution for prior misdemeanor cases once they learned that prosecutors were investigating his business cash flow from illegal contracting during previous years.
"We are pleased with this victory because restitution in these cases is rare," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "CSLB and its partners are extremely serious about getting money back for those wronged by unlicensed contractors and holding them accountable for their illegal actions."
Checco was placed on five years' supervised probation in lieu of 16 months in state prison. During that time, he will not be allowed to do any work that requires a contractor's license, whether for himself or anyone else, regardless of the employer's license status. He must also perform 90 days of community service and submit himself for a DNA sample, search and seizure.
By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by CSLB.
Because unlicensed operators don't carry workers' compensation insurance, they often submit lower project bids. But, if a worker is injured on the job, the homeowner could be liable. Plus, if there is a contract disagreement with an unlicensed contractor, the homeowner has very few options.
CSLB offers consumers these tips when hiring a contractor for building or remodeling:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license.
- Don't hire the first contractor who comes along.
- Don't rush into repairs, no matter how badly they're needed.
- Verify the contractor's license at www.cslb.ca.gov or 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
- Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000-whichever is less-as a down payment.
- Don't pay in cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract.
In 2009, CSLB, which operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs, marks its 80th anniversary of protecting consumers by regulating California's construction industry. Today CSLB licenses about 315,000 contractors. In any given year, complaints are filed against only 3% of licensed contractors. In fiscal year 2007-08, the CSLB helped consumers recover $35.2 million in ordered restitution.
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