Revoked Licensees and Repeat Offender Among Those Illegally Contracting in La Jolla
CSLB sting catches 23 unlicensed operators in two-day operation
SACRAMENTO — A Contractors State License Board (CSLB) sting operation at a La Jolla home on May 25 and 26, 2011, netted 23 for contracting without a license and various related charges. Two were former licensees with revoked licenses, and one had already been on probation for contracting without a license.
Members of CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners who invited suspected unlicensed operators to bid on home improvement projects including electrical, tile, painting, landscaping, and concrete. Those who bid more than $500 received notices to appear in court for contracting without a license. California law prohibits contracting for home improvement services valued at more than $500 for labor and materials without a state contractor license. Contractors must also place their license number in all forms of advertising. Those who do not have licenses can bid to do home improvement jobs valued at less than $500, but their ads must state that they are not a licensed contractor. Related charges for some of the unlicensed operators included soliciting an excessive down payment and displaying a license not issued to them. It is a misdemeanor in California to solicit a down payment greater than $1,000 or 10 percent, whichever is less. It is also a misdemeanor to display another license as their own.
Rogelio Soto, Jr., of Spring Valley, illegally bid on a concrete project during the second day of the La Jolla sting. Soto pleaded guilty in September 2006 to charges of contracting without a license. He was fined $225 and placed on probation for three years.
CSLB revoked Lonnie Allen LeBlanc’s electrical contractor license in September 2005. The La Mesa man failed to comply with citations for various home improvement contract violations, pay for materials or services, charged excessive down payments, and charged payments exceeding the value of the work performed. The license of general building contractor Gary Joseph Hincman, of Encinitas, was revoked in July 2004 for failing to comply with a citation for aiding and abetting a non-licensee. Those caught contracting on a revoked license are subject to the same fine and imprisonment as a third conviction for contracting without a license. This includes at least 90 days and up to a year in county jail and fines of up to $10,000.
James Ariel Rivera-Siron, of San Marcos, illegally bid for on electrical work. He was taken to jail on an outstanding $27,000 warrant for drug possession, and will have to appear in court for contracting without a license and illegal advertising.
"This sting operation sends a loud and clear message that violation of state consumer protection laws will not be tolerated by CSLB or its partnering agencies," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Homeowners should also note that it is well worth the couple minutes it takes to check CSLB’s website to make sure that the contractor you are going to hire is licensed and has workers’ compensation insurance for their employees."
Since 2005, anybody applying for a contractor license or adding a contractor license classification has been required to submit fingerprints for a criminal background check through the Department of Justice. Contractors are also required to have workers’ compensation insurance for each of their employees to protect homeowners from liability if an injury occurs on their property.
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring somebody to work on their home:
- Hire only 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 San Diego Police Department, San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, and California Department of Insurance assisted CSLB in this two-day sting operation.
The California Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the 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. 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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