CSLB and Partners Target Unlicensed Activity in Nevada County
Undercover sting operation targets unlicensed contractors
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB)’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), along with the Nevada County District Attorney’s and Sheriff’s Offices, and the Nevada County Contractors Association, joined forces August 4, 2010, during a sting operation in Grass Valley that was designed to curb unlicensed contracting in the foothill regions. CSLB issued notices to appear (NTA) in court to four suspects on charges related to unlicensed contracting; one is a registered sex offender.
"Consumers may not realize the risks of bringing a person into their home who is unlicensed and who has not been qualified in their trade or undergone a background check," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. Since 2005, CSLB has required new applicants and licensees changing or adding classifications to submit fingerprints that are screened by the Department of Justice before a license is issued.
"It only takes just a few moments to check the license status on CSLB’s website or by calling the toll-free, automated phone line," Sands added.
SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners who were soliciting bids for paving, landscaping, and painting at a home near Grass Valley. Suspects who bid more than $500 for labor and materials received NTAs. The California Business and Professions Code requires all home improvement jobs valued at more than $500 to be undertaken by a licensed contractor. Contractors also must place their state contractor license number in all advertisements. Unlicensed individuals may advertise and do jobs valued at less than $500, but their ads must state that they are not a state-licensed contractor.
"I am delighted with the results of this joint operation with the Contractors State License Board, Nevada County Sheriff’s team, and our office," said Nevada County District Attorney Clifford Newell. "Although there were arrests, citations, and warnings, our main objective is to educate the public. Also, unlicensed individuals holding themselves out as licensed contractors need to know we will hold them accountable."
The following suspects who received NTAs will be arraigned at the Nevada County Superior Court at 201 Church Street in Nevada City on a date that has yet to be decided:
The following suspects are scheduled for arraignment in San Diego County Superior Court, Department 1, located at 220 West Broadway in San Diego, on October 6 and 7, 2010:
|SUSPECT'S NAME and
CITY OF RESIDENCE
|Roger Martin Michaels
|56||Earthwork and Paving||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Donald Herman Engberson
|68||Landscaping||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Yong Woo Chong
|55||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Andrew K Mc Robbie
|43||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising
(Registered Sex Offender)
Like CSLB, the Nevada County Contractors Association helps educate the public about the value of hiring licensed contractors and provides a listing on its website: www.nccabuildingpros.com.
Property owners should beware of individuals who do not carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees or the contractor license bond that is required by California law. Without these, a homeowner could be liable and without recourse if a worker is hurt on their property, if their property is damaged or if the construction project is abandoned. Unlicensed contractors also do not follow state and local building codes or pull the appropriate permits, posing health and safety risks and potential problems during home resale.
CSLB urges consumers to remember the following tips when hiring a contractor:
- Verify the contractor's license by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or via CSLB’s automated phone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
- Ask to see the person’s identification to make sure you are dealing with the correct individual.
- Don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. There is an exception to this for about two dozen contractors who purchase special bonds that are noted on CSLB’s website.
- Don't pay in cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Check references, and get at least three bids and a written contract before your project begins.
- Make sure your contractor obtains the necessary building permits for any project. If you are unsure of these requirements, contact your local building department.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on the CSLB website or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). You can also sign up for CSLB e-mail alerts at www.cslb.ca.gov. CSLB licenses and regulates California's more than 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2009-10, CSLB helped recover nearly $42 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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