Unlicensed Contractors "Boxed In" during Contractors State License Board Sting in El Cajon
Repeat offender among those caught in operation
SACRAMENTO — A Contractors State License Board (CSLB) sting operation at an El Cajon home netted 14 people suspected of unlicensed contracting and related offenses. Members of CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) conducted the undercover operation on May 13, 2010. After learning he'd been caught, one of the suspects jokingly remarked that he'd been caught in "el cajón." Cajón means large box, or coffin, in Spanish.
One of the suspects, Frank Marquez, of San Diego, was a former Home Improvement Salesperson (HIS) registered with CSLB until 1998 when the license of the company he was selling contracting services for (Dura-Bilt Construction, #260025) was revoked. Marquez also pleaded no contest to contracting without a license in 1992. Another suspect caught during the sting, Ronald Lee Deutschendorf, of Poway, was taken to jail on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.
During the operation, SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners and solicited bids from suspected unlicensed operators for painting and concrete work. The El Cajon Police Department, San Diego County District Attorney's Office, and California Department of Insurance (DOI) assisted in the sting. The 14 suspects who bid more than $500 received Notices to Appear (NTA) in court to face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license. California Business and Professions Code (B&P) requires that home improvement jobs valued at more than $500 for labor and materials be performed by a licensed contractor.
In addition to unlicensed contracting, seven face charges of illegal advertising. B&P Code requires contractors to include their license number in all forms of advertisements. Those who are not licensed may advertise home improvement services, but must indicate in their ad that they do not have a state license. They may not perform work valued at greater than $500 in labor and materials.
Unlicensed operators are a large part of the underground economy, and have not undergone criminal background checks. Anyone who has applied for or changed a contractor license since 2005 has been required to submit fingerprints that are reviewed by the Department of Justice.
"Unlicensed operators may underbid legitimate contractors," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands, "but you may not end up with as good a deal as you thought. Homeowners often end up paying more than twice as much in cases where they have to hire a licensee to correct a botched job."
CSLB licensees must carry a license bond and have workers' compensation insurance to protect their employees if they're injured on the job.
The following suspects were issued NTAs and are scheduled to appear at the San Diego County Superior Court's East County Regional Center at 250 East Main Street in El Cajon on July 19, and 20, 2010, at 8:30 a.m.:
|SUSPECT’S NAME, BUSINESS, CITY||LICENSE CLASSIFICATION||VIOLATIONS|
|Jaime Arturo Plascencia, Jaime's Concrete, Spring Valley||Concrete||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Marco Antonio Lucero, Venegas Handyman, San Diego||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Frank Marquez, San Diego||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Alberto Alonso, Alonso's Handyman, San Diego||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Manuel Eduardo Millan Delgado, San Diego||Concrete||Contracting without a license|
|Gale Jacob Hopping, Sunset Handyman, San Diego||Concrete||Contracting without a license|
|Fernando Zuniga Sanchez, Construction and Design, Chula Vista||Concrete||Contracting without a license|
|Javier Reyes-Gonzalez, Reyes Services, El Cajon||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Scott Allen Sanders, Rentalpainter.Com, Santee||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Ruben Romo Mendoza Jr., Handyman, Chula Vista||Painting||Contracting without a license|
|Ronald Lee Deutschendorf, Tricks of the Trade, Poway||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising; booked for possession of controlled substance without a prescription|
|Giuseppe Trinca, Joe and Joe, San Diego||Concrete||Contracting without a license|
|Giuseppe Vassallo, Joe and Joe, San Diego||Concrete||Contracting without a license|
|Samiuela Wolfgramm, Veterans Concrete, Chula Vista||Concrete||Contracting without a license|
CSLB urges consumers to remember the following tips when hiring a contractor:
- Check references, and get at least three bids and a written contract before your project begins.
- Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door or anyone who puts pressure on you to hire them on the spot.
- Verify the contractor's license by checking online or via CSLB's automated phone system, 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.
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.
Sign Up For News Release Email Alerts
Please type in your email below and click submit.