Contractors State License Board Sting Catches12 Unlicensed Operators
Contra Costa County undercover operation underscores prevalence of unlicensed contracting
SACRAMENTO — The lure of easy money led a dozen unlicensed operators to a sting operation conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in Orinda on May 18 and 19, 2010. The two-day operation included support from the Orinda Police Department and the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office.
Members of CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners and took bids on home improvement projects that included tree trimming and warm-air heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC). When the suspects bid more than $500, they were given a Notice to Appear (NTA) in court for contracting without a license. California Business and Professions Code (B&P) requires that home improvement jobs valued at $500 or more for labor and materials to be performed by a state-licensed contractor. One contractor picked up at the sting will receive an administrative citation for contracting with an expired license.
Homeowners seldom realize the risks of hiring illegal operators. Phony contractors rarely have a contractor license bond or workers' compensation insurance. A worker who is hurt on the job could seek medical reimbursement or other damages from the homeowner. Homeowners also have little recourse for poor workmanship, incomplete work or other financial damage when they use a person that does not have a license bond, which is a standard requirement for CSLB-licensed contractors.
"Some unlicensed operators deliberately target trusting and vulnerable people," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "They might take your money and be gone without completing the work before you realize what's happened, which may force you to pay twice just to get the job completed."
The following suspects were issued NTAs and are scheduled to be arraigned in Contra Costa County Superior Court at 640 Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek on June 28, 2010, at 8:30 a.m.:
|SUSPECT’S NAME AND CITY||AGE||VIOLATIONS||WORKCLASS|
|Francisco Cervante Cobian
|41||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising||Painting|
|41||Illegal advertising||Fencing, Painting|
|38||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising||Tree Trimming|
|Steven Keith Goff
|60||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising||Painting|
|43||Contracting without a license||Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning|
|45||Contracting without a license||Painting|
|34||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising||Fencing, Tree Trimming|
|Carlos Alberto Bellido
|498||Contracting without a license, illegeal advertising||Painting|
|44||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising||Fencing|
|49||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising||Painting|
|39||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising||Painting|
|46||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising||Concrete|
CSLB provides many helpful consumer publications that can be downloaded or ordered from the Web site: www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com or www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling 1-800-321-CSLB (2752). 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 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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