Contractors State License Board Snares Seven Illegal Operators
Phony contractors targeted in Calabasas undercover sting operationSACRAMENTO — Seven suspected unlicensed operators were caught during a Contractors State License Board (CSLB) sting in Calabasas on May 27, 2010, and CSLB is warning homeowners to be especially careful before hiring people for home improvement projects. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office assisted in the operation.
Members of CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners and invited suspected unlicensed operators to bid on projects including painting, masonry, flooring, and tile work. When the suspects bid more than $500 for a job, they received a Notice to Appear (NTA) in Los Angeles County Superior Court to face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license. California Business & Professions Code (B&P) requires a state contractor license for home improvement jobs valued at $500 or more in labor and materials. Some also face charges of illegal advertising and asking for an excessive down payment. B&P Code requires contractors to include their license number in all advertisements. Those without licenses are permitted to do work valued at less than $500, but must state that they are not licensed in their ads. It is also a violation of B&P Code to solicit a down payment larger than $1,000 or 10 percent of the contract, whichever is less. (There is an exception for about two dozen contractors who purchase special consumer protection bonds that are noted on CSLB's website.)
"Unlicensed operators are part of a huge underground economy and may not be such a bargain for the homeowners who use them," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Homeowners may end up paying twice for a job when they have to hire a licensed contractor to fix the problem."
Homeowners seldom realize the risks they take when hiring illegal operators. Phony contractors never have workers' compensation insurance, which means if a worker is hurt, the property owner could be liable. In addition, homeowners have little recourse if something goes wrong with the project.
"Some unlicensed operators deliberately target trusting and vulnerable people," added Sands. "They can take your money and be gone before you realize what has happened."
CSLB urges consumers to remember the following 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 system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752), and 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 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 3 bids and a written contract before your project begins.
|The following suspects were issued NTAs on May 26.|
They are scheduled for arraignment on August 26, 2010, at 8:00 a.m. in San Bernardino Central Court at 351 North Arrowhead Avenue.
|NAME / BUSINESS||AGE||CITY OF RESIDENCE||WORK
|Shaul Shenor Rubinstein||53||Reseda||Doors, Gates and Activation Devices||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising, soliciting excessive down payment|
|Herman Jose Pimed Batres||28||Los Angeles||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Christopher Carl Walling||59||Oak Park||Limited Specialty Contractor||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|John Anthony Helbrecht||48||Chatsworth||Painting||Contracting without a license|
|Armis Hilario||46||San Fernando||Tile||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Paul Douglas Strong||41||Universal City||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Ovadya Avi Cohen||64||Reseda||Painting||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 2008-09, CSLB helped recover nearly $36 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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