Sex Offenders, Convicted Felons Snagged in CSLB Statewide Sting
California Blitz highlights serious risks consumers take when hiring unlicensed contractors
SACRAMENTO — Ninety-seven people may face criminal charges after being caught in 14 simultaneous statewide undercover sting operations conducted this week by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB).
Among those arrested during CSLBs summer California Blitz were 11 repeat offenders, four sex offenders, four suspects with active arrest warrants, four suspects on probation, two former CSLB licensees, and a woman who received widespread media attention last year as a so-called Sweetheart Swindler. Three of the suspects were taken to jail.
Its particularly disturbing how many of the suspects we targeted turned out to be convicted criminals, many with a history of violent crimes and drugs, said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. If you knew their backgrounds, youd never allow them in your home.
Investigators from CSLBs Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) partnered with a variety of local law enforcement agencies to conduct the operations on July 15 and 16, 2014, at homes in Apple Valley (San Bernardino County), Artesia (Los Angeles County), Atascadero (San Luis Obispo County), Bakersfield (Kern County), Corona (Riverside County), Los Banos (Merced County), Rocklin (Placer County), and South Lake Tahoe (El Dorado County).
SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvements such as painting, electrical, decking, landscaping, flooring, drywall, fencing, concrete, and tree removal work. Of the 97individuals arrested, 94 now may face misdemeanor charges for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028(a)). The penalty for a conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
One of those caught in Rocklin is Samantha Pham, of Elk Grove, who is on probation after pleading guilty to various felonies last year, including theft from an elder and an allegation of aggravated white collar crime. Pham was convicted of swindling an older man out of a luxury car, $200,000, and his Bay Area home. Her sentence includes three years of supervised probation (News Release ). She was arrested for contracting without a license through a local business she runs, called Bella's Kitchen & Bath. She faces a number of new charges that include contracting without a license, fraudulent use of a CSLB license number, and requesting an excessive down payment.
Updated Information: In November 2014, Samantha Pham pleaded No Contest to a charge of fraudulent use of a CSLB license number (Business & Professions (B&P) Code section 7027.3). Two other charges against Pham (Contracting without a license (B&P Code section 7028) and Illegal advertising (B&P Code section 7027.1) were dismissed. Pham was fined $700 and sentenced to one year informal probation.
Three convicted sex offenders also showed up at the Rocklin sting. One suspect and his worker had met at a recovery facility. At the South Lake Tahoe sting, two repeat offenders (for unlicensed contracting) were caught, including one who was cited just three months ago.
Eighty-two 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.
Ten 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.
Two 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 email or fax at a later date. All of those caught this week were identified through illegal ads they posted on craigslist.
Apple Valley (San Bernardino County)
- Most suspects were targeted from ads on craigslist.org and PennySaverUSA.com.
- A few targets were scared away after a suspect parked outside the sting property, drawing attention to the operation.
Artesia (Los Angeles County)
- A repeat offender who was given an administrative citation a few weeks ago again was caught contracting without a license.
- One suspect unsuccessfully tried to flee the scene but was caught.
Atascadero (San Luis Obispo County)
- One suspect had an arrest warrant from Imperial County.
- Two repeat offenders were caught; one was issued a Notice to Appear in 2009, the other in 2010.
- One suspect was a previously licensed contractor. His license expired four years ago, and he was warned in 2012 not to contract without a license.
- One suspect offered to build a deck for free with materials hed find on craigslist.org for free if hed be allowed to live in a camper that was on the property.
Bakersfield (Kern County)
- Three suspects had arrest warrants, including one for felony possession of narcotics and paraphernalia, as well as making criminal threats.
- One repeat offender from 2012 was caught a suspect who pleaded guilty, served five days in jail, paid an almost $1,000 fine, and is still on probation.
Corona (Riverside County)
- A number of suspects were targeted because of consumer complaints filed against them with CSLB.
- One suspect had an arrest warrant for felony forgery charges and was taken to jail.
- Two of the suspects had complaints against them for allegedly abandoning jobs, one after receiving almost $11,000 in payments.
- One suspect was caught in a CSLB sting just three months ago.
Los Banos (Merced County)
- One suspect, a former CSLB licensee, is a registered sex offender. His license was suspended after $380,000 in judgments were filed against him.
- Two repeat offenders were caught; one who was arrested in a sting last year, the other who received a CSLB citation.
- One suspect told investigators he has a license that he uses when one is needed.
- Los Banos Police issued 11 citations for not having a business license (Los Banos Municipal Code 3-1.101).
Rocklin (Placer County)
- Three registered sex offenders were arrested.
- Two suspects were on probation, one for arson and making terrorist threats.
- Known Sweetheart Swindler Samantha Pham was arrested for multiple violations.
South Lake Tahoe (El Dorado County)
- Two repeat offenders were caught, including one who was cited just three months ago.
- A sweep of local construction sites also was conducted. The operation resulted in identifying an unlicensed contractor from Arizona who had entered into contracts with two CSLB licensees, leading to multiple citations against all involved.
Arrest tallies from each sting location are available by contacting CSLBs Public Affairs Office (see page one contacts).
|Location||Notices to Appear
San Bernardino County
|11||Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Division of Investigation Ontario Field Office|
Los Angeles County
|12||Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office
DCA Division of Investigation Lakewood Field Office
San Luis Obispo County
|12||San Luis Obispo County District Attorneys Office
San Luis Obispo County Sheriffs Department
California Highway Patrol Coastal Division
Atascadero Police Department
|10||Kern County District Attorneys Office
California Department of Insurance
|19||Riverside County District Attorneys Office
Corona Police Department
|11||Merced County District Attorneys Office
California Highway Patrol Fresno Division
Los Banos Police Department
CA Department of Industrial Relations
|14||Placer County District Attorneys Office
Amador County District Attorneys Office
Rocklin Police Department
|South Lake Tahoe
El Dorado County
|7||El Dorado District Attorney's Office|
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).
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 $51 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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