Contractors State License Board Sting Highlights Potential Perils of Hiring Unlicensed Operators
Methamphetamine possession sends one of eight unlicensed operators to jail
SACRAMENTO — An unlicensed house painter who illegally bid on a job at an Amador County house wound up going to jail instead of getting the job. Karl Calvert Marohl III, 37, of Ione, told an undercover investigator from the Contractors State License Board’s (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) that he would paint a house for $600 if she purchased the materials. According to California law, any home improvement project valued at more than $500 for labor and materials must be done by a licensed contractor. When Marohl was detained, investigators found he was in possession of methamphetamine and took him to jail. Marohl was accompanied to bid on the job by two people, one of whom was a parolee in possession of meth and drug paraphernalia. Kelly Murrel Woods, 46, of Ione, was also taken to jail.
Marohl was one of eight who received Notices to Appear (NTA) in court for unlicensed contracting during the undercover sting operation held in Jackson on July 20, 2010. The CSLB operation was conducted with the support of the Amador County District Attorney’s (DA) Office and the Jackson Police Department. Of the eight, one will face an additional charge of soliciting an excessive down payment, and two others for illegal advertising. California Business and Professions (B&P) Code prohibits contractors from soliciting down payments greater than $1,000 or 10 percent of the entire contract, whichever is less. There is an exception for about two dozen contractors who purchase special bonds for consumer protection. The B&P Code also requires contractors to place their license number in all advertisements. Unlicensed contractors can advertise for work if they state they are not licensed and do not perform jobs valued more than $500.
On July 21, 2010, SWIFT, the DA, police and investigators from the California Employment Development Department conducted sweeps at nine construction sites in Jackson and two in Sutter Creek. One contractor in Jackson will receive a warning letter for not having his license number on the side of his truck, as required by B&P Code. Another licensee in Sutter Creek will receive an administrative citation for filing a false exemption from carrying workers’ compensation insurance, which violates a B&P Code. The DA will pursue a criminal case against that licensee for failure to carry workers’ comp, a violation of the California Labor Code.
"This sting shows why consumers should take the time to check the license before they hire a contractor to work in or around their home," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "A few seconds on the CSLB website (www.cslb.ca.gov or CheckTheLicenseFirst.com) will show whether the contractor is licensed and whether he has workers’ compensation insurance so that the homeowner isn’t stuck with any liability if a worker is injured on the property.”
Contractors must purchase workers’ comp coverage for all employees except for themselves, unless they are roofers. Roofers must have this insurance for themselves and employees. The workers’ comp insurer is displayed on the CSLB website’s Instant License Check. If contractors file an exemption stating they have no employees, this exemption is also indicated on the license check. Homeowners should ask their contractor whether any other employees will be working on their project; and, if so, verify there is appropriate insurance coverage.
CSLB urges consumers to always follow these tips as well before hiring a contractor:
- Verify the contractor's license by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or use CSLB’s automated phone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
- Ask to see a photo identification to make sure you’re dealing with the correct person.
- Don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. There is an exception to this rule for about two dozen contractors who have special bonds for consumer protection that are noted on the CSLB 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 with the estimated total cost of the project before any work begins.
The following suspects are scheduled for arraignment on September 20, 2010, at 1:00 p.m. at the Amador County Courthouse on 500 Argonaut Lane in Jackson:
|Gerald Evan Zimmerman
|40||Landscaping||Contracting without a license|
|Karl Calvert Marohl, III
Honey Do Handyman
|37||Painting||Contracting without a license
Booked for possession of controlled substance
|John Robert Fowler
|30||Painting||Contracting without a license|
|Russell Gene Pacheco
|55||Painting||Contracting without a license, soliciting excessive down payment|
|Jonathon Francis Triglia
Handyman Services by Jonathon Triglia
|46||Painting||Contracting without a license|
|Kevin Todd Malone
Nor Cal Garage Floor Coating/Sealing
|42||Synthetic Products||Contracting without a license|
Experienced House Painter
|54||Concrete||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Shawn Dwayne Wilcox
|35||General Construction||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
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. The 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 more than $42 million in ordered restitution for the public.
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