Registered Sex Offender among those Contracting Without a License in Fresno County Sting
CSLB operation sends 13 suspected illegal operators to court
SACRAMENTO —A landscaper who thought he would be getting a big job in Fresno’s Fig Garden area instead will be going to court on charges of contracting without a license. Conrad Garza, 47, of Kingsburg, was among 17 unlicensed operators who showed up for a Contractors State License Board (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) sting conducted on January 25 and 26, 2011. SWIFT was assisted by the California Department of Insurance, Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, and California Highway Patrol.
SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners seeking tree trimming, landscaping, painting, roofing, and electrical work done on the property. Unlicensed operators who bid more than $500 for labor and materials received notices to appear in court for contracting without a license. Five will face additional charges for failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance for employees, eleven for illegal advertising, three for soliciting an excessive down payment, and one for misdemeanor misrepresentation of a contractor license not issued to him.
Two suspects who came to the sting house were arrested. One had a no bail warrant for domestic violence. Another man who accompanied an unlicensed operator to the sting had a no bail warrant for failure to appear in court on charges of driving under the influence.
The Fresno sting operation happened just days before a February 3, 2011, meeting between CSLB’s Chief of Enforcement David Fogt and members Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingin’s Licensed Contractor Affinity Group. Fresno city and county government officials and licensed contractors in the central valley area formed the Affinity Group to educate the public about the risks and dangers of using unlicensed operators, as well as how these participants in the underground economy do not pay their fair share of taxes at a time when local and state governments are experiencing huge deficits.
"The sex offender, as well as the uninsured workers who were caught in this operation drive home the message the Affinity Group has been conveying about the risks your family and finances can face from unlicensed operators," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "It only takes a few minutes to check CSLB’s website or call the 800 number to check any contractor’s license status and verify that their employees have workers’ compensation insurance coverage."
Since 2005, state law has required CSLB to conduct criminal background checks on all new applicants for licenses and those adding classifications to their existing license.
California law requires contractors to have workers’ compensation insurance for all of their employees. State law also requires roofing contractors to carry a workers’ compensation policy even if they certify that they have no employees. Contractors must also show their license number in all advertisements. State law also prohibits soliciting a down payment larger than 10 percent of the cost of the work or $1,000, whichever is less. Unlicensed operators may advertise to do work valued at less than $500, but their ads must state that they are not a licensed contractor. There is an exception to the down payment rule for about two dozen contractors who purchase bonds for consumer protection. License bond information is available when checking the status of a contractor license.
The following suspects who received notices to appear in court are scheduled for arraignment on March 22, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. in Fresno County Superior Court at 1100 Van Ness Avenue:
|SUSPECT NAME & CITY||AGE||WORK CLASS.||VIOLATIONS|
|45||Tree Service||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising, misrepresentation of contractor license not issued to him, failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance|
|Jason Tobias Carbajal
|35||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising, failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance|
|Ramiro Garcia Chavana
|62||Tree Service||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Steve Richard Brown
|54||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising Arrested on no bail warrant for domestic violence|
|Arturo Garcia Rodriguez
|56||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising, failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance|
|59||Landscaping and Tree Service||Contracting without a license, soliciting excessive down payment, failure to secure workers’ comp insurance|
|Juan Sacramento Meza
|55||Tree Service||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|30||Fencing||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|SUSPECT NAME & CITY||AGE||WORK CLASS.||VIOLATIONS|
|Gilbert Henry Montejano
|58||Roofing||Contracting w/o a license, illegal advertising, soliciting excessive down payment, failure to carry workers’ comp insurance|
|47||Landscaping||Contracting without a license Registered sex offender|
|Christian Alejandro Heredia
|23||Landscaping||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|52||Electrical||Contracting w/o a license, illegal advertising, soliciting excessive down payment|
|47||General Construction||Contracting w/o a license, soliciting excessive down payment|
CSLB urges all California consumers to follow these tips before hiring a home improvement contractor:
- Verify the contractor's license online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or via CSLB’s automated phone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
- Ask to see a photo identification to verify the contractor’s identity.
- 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 purchase special bonds and are noted on CSLB’s website.
- Don't pay in cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.
- Get at least three bids and insist on 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, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. 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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