More than 120 Unlicensed Contractors Caught by CSLB in California Blitz
Repeat offenders underscore serious risks consumers take
SACRAMENTO — Dozens of people now may face criminal charges after being caught in simultaneous undercover sting operations conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) March 25-27, 2014, in nine California locations.
Among the 121 individuals arrested during CSLBs spring California Blitz were repeat offenders, a man who is awaiting trial on an assault with a deadly weapon charge, and someone who was caught in not one, but two different stings.
Investigators from CSLBs Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), along with partners from a variety of local law enforcement agencies, conducted the stings in Bass Lake (Madera County), Clovis (Fresno County), Dana Point (Orange County), Hanford (Kings County), Palos Verdes Estates (Los Angeles County), Sacramento (Sacramento County), San Jose (Santa Clara County), Vista (San Diego County), and Woodland (Yolo County).
SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvements such as painting, drywall, landscaping, decking, cabinets, flooring, fencing, masonry, concrete, and tree removal work.
After seeing his ad posted on craigslist.org, CSLB investigators invited Martin Villegas, of North Highlands, to the Sacramento sting. Villegas showed up with two other men and gave a $1,200 bid for landscaping work. That led to his first Notice to Appear (NTA) for contracting without a license.
His brush with the law didnt appear to slow down Villegas. The next day he showed up after being invited to a sting location in nearby Woodland. Villegas gave a different team of CSLB undercover investigators a $2,150 bid for exterior painting, landscaping, and concrete work.
That led to Villegass second NTA in two days.
One suspect caught in the Clovis sting is actually a licensed contractor. But, Jeffrey Daniel Jimenezs license (#849108) was suspended last September after he failed to reimburse his bond company for a $1,700 payout it made to a consumer.
A number of the suspects targeted during the operation were on CSLBs radar after having consumer complaints filed against them. In one case, a suspect was cited by CSLB after a refusing to take care of a paint job he botched. The suspect was more than willing to give an undercover investigator $1,200 bid for painting. That earned the suspect a date in front of a superior court judge.
Of the 121 individuals arrested, 115 now may face misdemeanor charges for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028). The penalty for a conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Ninety-four suspects also may be charged with 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. The penalty is a fine of $700 to $1,000.
Seven others may be charged with requesting an excessive down payment (Business and Professions Code section 7159.5). In California, a home improvement project down payment cannot exceed 10 percent of the contract total or $1,000, whichever is less. This misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine.
Nineteen of the phony contractors also were issued Stop Orders (Business and Professions Code section 7127). CSLB investigators can halt job site activity when any person with or without a contractor license does not have workers compensation insurance coverage for employees. Failure to comply with a Stop Order can result in misdemeanor charges and penalties, including 60 days in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
Blitz totals may increase as some suspects are expected to provide their bids to undercover investigators via text, email or fax at a later date. A majority of those caught this week were identified through illegal ads posted on craigslist.org.
Palos Verdes Estates (Los Angeles County)
Repeat offender with $35,000 arrest warrant for failing to appear in court to face a previous charge of contracting without a license
Repeat offender bid $48,000 to install a new driveway
Dana Point (Orange County)
Suspect with pending trial for assault with a deadly weapon charge
Suspect targeted after tip to CSLB from licensed contractor who had lost many jobs to unlicensed operator
Vista (San Diego County)
Repeat offender previously caught in 2009 sting
San Jose (Santa Clara County)
Investigators found an unusually large number of illegal advertisements in Yellow Pages phone book
Sacramento (Sacramento County)
Repeat offenders with numerous complaints on file with CSLB caught
Suspect caught on first day of operation, then set to give bid on second day in Woodland
Woodland (Yolo County)
Suspect caught previous day in Sacramento gives bid and is caught a second time in two days
One suspect arrived late to give bid due to taking exam for his CSLB license
Bass Lake (Madera County)
Three of five people caught also were issued stop orders
Clovis (Fresno County)
Suspect with suspended license caught
Suspect caught who failed his CSLB license exam at least six times
Vehicle towed because suspect had never been licensed, and had three prior Driving Under Influence cases
Eight Stop Orders issued
Hanford (Kings County)
Seven Stop Orders issued
Unlicensed, uninsured operators are in your neighborhoods every day, putting you and your family at risk, said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. Home improvement projects are expensive, so always make sure youre hiring a licensed contractor who can do the job right the first time.
NTA tallies and details from each sting location are available by contacting Steve Breen or Melanie Bedwell in CSLBs Public Affairs Office (see page one contacts).
|Location||Notices to Appear
|Palos Verdes Estates
Los Angeles County
|6||Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office
Palos Verdes Estates Police Department
Palos Verdes Estates Code Enforcement
|14||Fresno County District Attorney's Office
Fresno County Sheriff's Department
Clovis Police Department
|13||Orange County District Attorney's Office
Orange County Sheriff's Department
San Diego County
|16||San Diego County District Attorney's Office
San Diego County Sheriff's Department
Santa Clara County
|19||Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office|
|23||Sacramento County District Attorney's Office|
|18||Yolo County District Attorney's Office
Yolo County Sheriff's Department
|7||Kings County District Attorney's Office|
|5||Madera County Sheriff's Department|
CSLB encourages consumers to always "Check the License First" by visiting www.cslb.ca.gov or calling CSLB's toll-free automated line 800.321.CSLB (2757). Also, visit CSLB's website for tips about how to hire a contractor and to sign up for CSLB email alerts.
The California Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates about 300,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2012-13, CSLB helped recover nearly $44 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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