CSLB Blitzes 135 in Statewide Undercover Sting Operations
Sex offenders, convicted burglar, holders of fake IDs, fake driver licenses, and welfare cards, as well as illegal drugs caught bidding on home improvement jobs in 10 different cities
SACRAMENTO —The Contractors State License Board’s (CSLB) spring "California Blitz" is putting a glaring spotlight on the severe risks California consumers take when they hire unlicensed operators to work in and around their home. A total of 135 suspected unlicensed contractors were arrested during the statewide undercover operation, conducted in 10 cities on March 8-10, 2011. The stings were conducted in Kings, Madera, Marin, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, Shasta and Tulare counties.
Two of those arrested (Monterey & Shasta County stings) were registered sex offenders; one was taken to jail. Investigators found that two others (Shasta & Tulare County stings) had "No Bail" warrants and were taken to jail. One of those arrest warrants was for burglary; the other for domestic violence. Another suspect (Tulare County sting) had eight different arrest warrants for driving under the influence and other traffic violations. A suspect (Kings County sting) had a $50,000 arrest warrant. Both went to jail.
During the Blitz, investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners or landlords, asking for bids on projects that ranged from landscaping, concrete, and fencing to painting, gutters, garage doors, cabinets, tile work, and tree trimming. Those who bid more than the legal limit of $500 for labor and materials received a notice to appear (NTA) in Superior Court for a misdemeanor charge of contracting without a license.
Other charges included illegal advertising and soliciting excessive down payments. State law requires contractors to include their license number on all forms of advertising. Those who are not licensed can advertise and contract for jobs valued at less than $500, but their ads must state that they are not a licensed contractor. Also, it is illegal to ask for a down payment greater than 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who purchase special bonds for consumer protection. Those exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website.
"Consumers must check out the people they’re going to hire to work on their home to make sure they’re properly licensed," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "A family’s safety or finances could be jeopardized by not taking a few minutes to verify the contractor on CSLB’s website or through our toll-free phone system. We hope this blitz is a wake-up call for consumers to check the license first."
Consumers often don’t realize the risk they run when hiring someone who is not licensed. Because these phony contractors don't carry workers’ compensation insurance, the homeowner could be liable if a worker is hurt on the job. Also, if something goes wrong or the project is abandoned, homeowners have few options for getting back their money.
The goal of CSLB’s twice-yearly blitz is to educate consumers about the dangers of hiring phony contractors, and to encourage people who qualify and want to work in the construction trades to get their contractor license, as required by state law. Local prosecutors and law enforcement agencies, as well as the California Department of Insurance, Department of Toxic Substances Control, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement assisted CSLB with the Spring Blitz.
"The Marin County District Attorney’s Office welcomes the opportunity to work with agencies like CSLB to ensure compliance with our state’s consumer protection laws," said Marin County District Attorney Edward Berberian. "It is also critical that Marin County contractors who provide good jobs, and pay their proper taxes and insurance are not put at a competitive disadvantage by these illegal operators."
|Location||Agencies Participating||Highlights||Court Date(s)|
|Marin County District Attorney’s Office
San Rafael Police Department
|17 Notices to Appear||April 1, 2011|
|Shasta County District Attorney’s Office||12 Notices to Appear
1 to Jail with No Bail Warrant for Domestic Violence
1 Registered Sex Offender
|April 18, 2011|
|Folsom Police Department
Folsom Community Development Department
|9 Notices to Appear||May 16, 2011|
|Monterey County District Attorney’s Office
Monterey County Sheriff’s Department
|10 Notices to Appear
1 Registered Sex Offender to Jail for Illegal Drugs
|April 19, 2011|
|Hanford (March 8)
|Kings County District Attorney’s Office
Department of Insurance
Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement
|9 Notices to Appear
1 to Jail with Arrest Warrant
2 Deportation Holds
|April 22, 2011|
|Dinuba (March 9)
|Dinuba Police Department
Department of Homeland Security
|6 Notices to Appear
2 to Jail with Arrest Warrants
|April 18, 2011|
|Madera County District Attorney’s Office||12 Notices to Appear||May 2, 2011|
|Orange County District Attorney’s Office
Orange County Sherriff’s Department
Department of Toxic Substance Control
|25 Notices to Appear||May 12, 19 & 26, 2011
June 2 & 9, 2011
|Riverside County District Attorney’s Office||16 Notices to Appear||June 8 & 9, 2011|
|East San Diego County||San Diego County District Attorney’s Office
San Diego County Sheriff’s Department
California Department of Insurance
|19 Notices to Appear||May 11, 2011|
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. 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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