Eight Phony Contractors Caught in West Covina Sting
CSLB and partners go undercover to combat unlicensed activity
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board, in partnership with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, California Highway Patrol, and West Covina Police Department, went undercover in West Covina on June 22, 2011, to catch eight illegal operators in the act.
Members of CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners and invited suspected phony contractors to a home near West Covina High School to bid on home improvement projects, including painting and concrete work. Eight people whose bids totaled more than $500 for labor and materials and were not state-licensed, were given a notice to appear (NTA) in court to face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license. Others also face misdemeanor charges of illegal advertising and soliciting an excessive down payment. State law requires contractors to put their license numbers in all advertisements. Those who are not licensed may advertise to perform jobs valued at less than $500, but their ads must state that they are not licensed. The law also prohibits contractors from soliciting down payments larger than $1,000 or 10 percent of the contract price, whichever is less. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who purchase a special type of consumer protection bond.
During the sting operation, Kelly Louise Clark, 45, of Azusa, showed up to the sting house and witnessed another suspect being escorted off the premises by a uniformed CHP officer. Despite this, Clark continued to enter the home, bid on a painting project, and received an NTA for contracting without a license, soliciting an excessive down payment, and illegal advertising.
Also caught in the sting was Samuel Kimo Young, 30, of Newport Beach, who received an NTA after he bid more than $500 on a concrete project. While being issued an NTA, CSLB investigators discovered he was on probation for stalking. In addition to charges related to contracting without a license, Brandon Otto Peterson, 36, of Long Beach, will be going to court for an outstanding $5,000 traffic warrant.
“Consumers have to be aware of who they are letting into their homes,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “If you’re not checking the license first, you could be putting yourself and your family’s safety and finances at risk.” Since 2005, state law has required all CSLB applicants who wish to get a contractor license or add a classification to their existing license to submit fingerprints for criminal background checks.
The following suspects are scheduled for arraignment in the Los Angeles Superior Court’s West Covina Courthouse at 8:30 a.m. on September 19 and September 21, 2011:
|SUSPECT NAME & CITY||AGE||WORK
|Jesus Trujillo Mendoza
|53||General Building Contractor||Contracting without a license, soliciting excessive down payment|
|Dat Sat Phuong
|34||General Building Contractor||Contracting without a license, soliciting excessive down payment, illegal advertising|
|Chad Richard Ashcraft
|35||General Building Contractor||Contracting without a license, soliciting excessive down payment, illegal advertising|
|Kelly Louise Clark
|45||Painting||Contracting without a license, soliciting excessive down payment, illegal advertising|
|Samuel Kimo Young
|30||Concrete||Contracting without a license, soliciting excessive down payment, currently on probation for stalking|
|Brandon Otto Petersen
|36||General Building Contractor||Contracting without a license, soliciting excessive down payment, illegal advertising. CHP issued notice to appear in court for an outstanding $5,000 traffic warrant|
|33||Painting||Contracting without a license, soliciting excessive down payment, illegal advertising|
|Roman Anthony Estrada
|33||Concrete||Contracting without a license|
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring anyone to work on their property:
- Only hire state-licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID to verify their identity.
- Always check the license number on CSLB’s website at www.cslb.ca.gov or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com to make sure the license is in good standing.
- Don’t pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special bonds to protect consumers. These exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website.
- Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let payments get ahead of the work.
- Get at least three bids, check references, and get a written contract.
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 email alerts at www.cslb.ca.gov. 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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