Contractors State License Board Catches Repeat Offender in Butte County Undercover Sting
Increased penalties and fines when charges ignored
SACRAMENTO — Repeatedly breaking state contracting laws has caught up with a Paradise area tree trimmer with a history of unlicensed activity that dates back to 1999. The Contractors State License Board's (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) caught Ronald Logan, of Magalia, in an undercover sting operation on August 29, 2012.
Partnering with the Butte County District Attorney's Office, SWIFT investigators were tipped off to Logan's illegal contracting and invited him and others suspected of contracting illegally to a home near Old Town Place in Paradise, where the undercover team posed as homeowners in need of a range of home improvement work. Logan is no stranger to CSLB and to getting caught working without a contractor license. He received citations from CSLB in 2000 ($250) and again in 2002 ($2,000). Neither fine was paid. By ignoring his citations, Logan now faces criminal misdemeanor charges, which could pose a fine up to $5,000.00 and/or six months in jail or both.
In the sting, investigators asked for home improvement bids on projects ranging from landscaping, fences, and concrete to painting, tile, and tree trimming. All home improvement jobs valued at $500 or more (combined labor and material costs) must be conducted by a company or person with a contractor license issued by CSLB. Ten suspects who bid more than $500 dollars were given Notices to Appear (NTA) in Superior Court to face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code 7028).
Five individuals also will be charged with illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code 7027.1). State law requires contractors to place their license number in all print, broadcast, and online advertisements. Those without a license can advertise to perform jobs valued at less than $500, but the ad must state that they are not a licensed contractor. Seven of the suspects were advertising on craigslist. CSLB issued a consumer alert in June, urging homeowners to verify license numbers and information provided through online bulletin boards with CSLB's Instant License Check.
"Many unlicensed individuals know they're breaking the law," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "They aren't going to tell you. That's why it's so important for consumers to ask for license information and check the details on our website before hiring them."
The ten who received NTAs are scheduled for arraignment at 8:30 a.m. on October 12, 2012, at the Butte County Courthouse in Oroville.
|Jeffrey Lawrence Sage||Landscaping||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|John Russell Stalions, II||Painting||Contracting without a license|
|Thomas Allan Box||Concrete||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Jose Vasquez Herrera||Landscaping||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|William Michael Rominek||Fencing||Contracting without a license|
|Joseph Charles Stilwell||Fencing||Contracting without a license|
|Ronald Lee Logan||Tree Service||Contracting without a license|
|Carlos Hernando Indaburn Lozano||Landscaping||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Michael Joseph Renner||Tile||Contracting without a license|
|Jose Manuel Ruvalcaba, Sr.||Tree Service||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring anyone to work on his or her home:
- Only hire state-licensed contractors; ask to see their license and a photo ID to verify their identity.
- Always check the license number on CSLB's Instant License Check feature to make sure the license is in good standing, and that employees are covered by workers' compensation insurance.
- 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. Those 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, get a written contract, and make sure you understand all terms before signing the contract.
- If a contractor has employees, make sure they are covered by a workers' compensation insurance policy, which is noted on the license detail page on CSLB's website. Otherwise, if a worker is injured on the job, the property owner could be liable for medical and other expenses.
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 CSLB's website or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752). You also can sign up for CSLB email alerts. CSLB licenses and regulates California's 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2011-12, CSLB helped recover nearly $36 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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