Six Phony Home Improvement Contractors Snared in San Bernardino
CSLB sting results in charges of contracting without a license and soliciting excessive down payments
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board's (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) partnered with the San Bernardino County District Attorney (DA), San Bernardino Police Department and Employment Development Department (EDD) for a sting operation targeting those contracting without a license on July 25, 2012. Six people without contractor licenses and other violations of state home improvement, labor, and employment laws received notices to appear in court.
SWIFT investigators sought bids for tile and painting projects at a San Bernardino home. The six who bid more than $500 received NTAs for contracting without a license. State law requires a license for home improvement and construction contracts of more than $500. They also face charges for soliciting excessive down payments. It is against the law to solicit or accept a down payment larger than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less.
Four will also face illegal advertising charges. Contractors are required to place their license number in all online, print, and broadcast advertisements. Those without licenses can legally advertise for jobs valued at less than $500, but their ads must state that they are not licensed contractors. CSLB last month issued a consumer alert warning homeowners about unlicensed operators advertising for home improvement services on craigslist and other online bulletin boards. Two of the suspects had placed ads on craigslist. One of them, Leonard Charles Legg, had a $20,000 outstanding warrant on drug charges. Police took Legg to jail where he was booked for being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Some of the six suspects face EDD audits for employment violations, and investigation by the DA for failure to carry workers' compensation for employees. Feliciano Nolasco Lopez received a stop order for failing to have a workers' compensation policy for his employee.
"CSLB and its law enforcement partners are sending a message to illegal operators that failure to comply with state laws that protect consumers will not be tolerated," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "This activity creates unfair competition for legitimate, licensed contractors who obey state laws and regulations and cheats state taxpayers who pay their fair share instead of cash payments under the table."
The six who received notices to appear are scheduled for arraignment Suspects caught in the sting operation are set for arraignment at 8 a.m. on October 11, 2012, in San Bernardino County Superior Court.
|Pedro Carrillo||Painting||Contracting without a license, soliciting excessive down payment|
|Juan De Dios Perez-Rodarte||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising, soliciting excessive down payment; vehicle towed for driving without a license|
|Alfredo A. Mayorga-Vargas||Ceramic and Mosaic Tile||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising, soliciting excessive down payment|
|Luis N. Cuestas Tueros||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising, soliciting excessive down payment|
|Feliciano Nolasco Lopez||Ceramic and Mosaic Tile||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising, soliciting excessive down payment; CSLB stop order issued|
|Leonard Charles Legg||Painting||Contracting without a license, soliciting excessive down payment|
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring anyone to work on their home:
- Hire only 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, and there is workers' compensation insurance for employees.
- 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. 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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