Craigslist Again Serves as Fertile Ground to Identify Illegal and Deceptive Ads for Contractors State License Board Undercover Sting
Arrests in Woodland operation include former licensee who posted more than five dozen ads in past week.
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) regularly uses online bulletin boards, including craigslist.org as a primary source to identify potential unlicensed contractors. However, seldom have investigators seen someone use the popular online bulletin board with more regularity than Andy Karl Kelly.
Kelly, operating as AK Plumbing, used to have a state contractor license. But that license (#931776) expired in April 2011. Kelly has continued to work and was given a warning letter by CSLB investigators in July 2012 for illegal advertising.
Because the illegal ads continued, including 45 posted on craigslist between September 27, 2012 and October 2, 2012, Kelly was invited to give a bid at a CSLB undercover sting operation on Wednesday, October 3, 2012, in Woodland. The sting was conducted by CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), in partnership with the Yolo County District Attorney's Office and Department of Consumer Affairs' Division of Investigation.
A total of 10 suspects, including Kelly, who bid more than $500 for home improvement projects ranging from plumbing and fencing, to painting, tiling and flooring, were given Notices to Appear (NTA) in Yolo County Superior Court to face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028). In California, all home improvement jobs totaling $500 or more in combined labor and material costs must be performed by CSLB-licensed contractors.
Eight of the 10 will face an additional misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code section 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.
Ads for AK Plumbing are continuing to show up on craigslist, with 13 posted on the day of the sting, 11 new ads posted the day after Kelly was arrested, and at least four posted today.
First conviction penalties for contracting without a license include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. A second conviction mandates from 90 days to one year in county jail, plus as much as $5,000 in fines. A third conviction also has a mandatory 90-day jail sentence and fines of up to $10,000.
Nine of the 10 sting suspects were targeted from their craigslist ads. CSLB issued a consumer alert in June, and second news release in September, urging homeowners to verify all contractor information that appears in online bulletin boards with CSLB's Instant License Check.
"Consumers must be careful if they use online bulletin boards to find people to work in or around their home," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "It's far too easy for unlicensed or unscrupulous individuals to break the law and deceive consumers using the online advertising."
One of the biggest risks property owners face with unlicensed operators is that they rarely carry workers' compensation insurance for their employees. Without it, if someone is hurt while on your property, you may be liable. "Don't be afraid to check with the bidder's workers' compensation insurance company to make sure the policy is still valid and covers all the workers," added Sands.
The 10 who received NTAs are scheduled for arraignment at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 9, 2013, at the Yolo County Superior Court, 213 3rd Street, in Woodland (Map).
|SUSPECT'S NAME, BUSINESS NAME, CITY OF RESIDENCE||WORK
|Raymond Dale Tackaberry, Sacramento||C-33 - Painting and Decorating||Contracting without a license|
|Luis Moncada, Sacramento||C-33 - Painting and Decorating||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Eduardo Angel Velasco, Davis||C-33 - Painting and Decorating||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Matthew Quintin Papathakis, Matt's All Wood Fence & Decks, Sacramento||C-13 - Fencing||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Paulo Jesse Henda, Jesse's Flooring, Rancho Cordova||C-15 - Flooring and Floor Covering||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Andy Karl Kelly, AK Plumbing, Woodland||C-36 - Plumbing||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Bernard Edwin Moore II, Sacramento||C-33 - Painting and Decorating||Contracting without a license|
|Charles Edward Callison, Callison's Maintenance, Vacaville||C-33 - Painting and Decorating||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Troy Lynn LaRue, Troy LaRue Carpentry, Sacramento||C-13 - Fencing||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Floyd Gene Smith, Reliable Handyman Service, Loomis||C-54 - Ceramic and Mosaic Tile||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring anyone to work on their home or business:
- Only hire licensed contractors and 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.
- Never make a down payment of more than 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry speial 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, get a written contract, and make sure you understand all terms before signing the contract.
The California 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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