CSLB Catches Felons, Other Known Criminals in Series of Statewide Undercover Sting Operations
California Blitz leads multi-state effort to warn consumers about risks of hiring unlicensed contractors
SACRAMENTO – Criminal charges are pending for 105 people who were caught in 14 different undercover sting operations conducted June 23-25, 2015, in eight cities throughout the state by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB).
CSLB’s summer California Blitz was the largest of a nine-state enforcement effort, with stings conducted in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington during the third and fourth weeks of June. The multi-state event was part of the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies’ effort to heighten consumer awareness of the value of hiring licensed contractors and the risks of using unlicensed people.
Among those arrested during CSLB’s summer blitz were three repeat offenders, four suspects with an active arrest warrant, two suspects on probation, one registered sex offender, and three with either revoked or suspended CSLB licenses.
Investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) partnered with several local law enforcement agencies to conduct the operations at homes in Apple Valley (San Bernardino County), Cypress (Orange County), Lafayette (Contra Costa County), Paso Robles (San Luis Obispo County), Sunnyvale (Santa Clara County), San Jose (Santa Clara County), Visalia (Tulare County), and Yuba City (Sutter County).
SWIFT investigators called suspected unlicensed operators for home improvement bids that included painting, drywall, landscaping, cabinetry, flooring, fencing, gates, masonry, tile, plumbing, concrete, and tree removal work.
“Several of the suspects we targeted turned out to be repeat offenders and individuals with a criminal history that included drug violations. One admitted to law enforcement officers that he had taken drugs before arriving,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “We can’t stress enough the importance of checking the contractor’s license on CSLB’s website before you allow anyone near your home or family.”
Suspects were targeted because of advertisements they posted in online bulletin boards such as craigslist.org, Angie’s List, and Facebook; local newspapers and community pamphlets that included, PennySaver, Thrifty Nickel, and Save A Buck; store bulletin boards, home show flyers, and business cards.
Of the individuals arrested, 101 may face misdemeanor charges for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) section 7028). The penalty for a first conviction is up to ix months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Ninety-two suspects also may be charged with illegal advertising (BPC §7027.1). California law requires contractors to place their CSLB 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 (BPC §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.
Seven individuals failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their workers (BPC §7125.4) and three of the phony contractors also were issued Stop Orders (BPC §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.
Three of the suspects were brazenly using a contractor license number that belong to a legitimate contractor, which carries a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a one-year jail sentence (BPC §7027.3). “Always be sure to check your contractor’s license number on the CSLB website and ask the contractor for photo identification to verify the person’s identity,” added Christenson.
Blitz totals may increase, as some suspects are expected to provide their bids to undercover investigators at a later date.
- Apple Valley (San Bernardino County)
- One suspect was working with a revoked license.
- Three suspects submitted bids days after the sting operation, were cited, and still must appear in superior court to answer to illegal contracting charges.
- Cypress (Orange County)
- A suspect was transported to jail for two outstanding DUI warrants for $17,000; another had been cited at CSLB sting in 2011.
- One suspect provided an excessive bid of $27,000 for tree trimming and a concrete driveway.
- Lafayette (Contra Costa County)
- After boasting about working with a network of licensed contractors, a suspect admitted to law enforcement officers that he had taken an illegal substance before arriving at the home.
- One suspect told investigators that he was too lazy to get a license because he didn’t want to do paperwork.
- After claiming to work for a licensed contractor, one suspect was in hot water both for illegal contracting and taking side jobs without his employer’s knowledge.
- Paso Robles (San Luis Obispo County)
- A suspect with an active warrant was taken to jail after requesting an excessive down payment from investigators and using another person’s contractor license number.
- Other bidders included a man on probation for violence and another with a suspended driver license.
- Sunnyvale (Santa Clara County)
- An unlicensed individual was arrested and jailed for an outstanding domestic warrant.
- San Jose (Santa Clara County)
- A Stop Order was issued for one suspect who was employing a crew without workers’ compensation insurance.
- When investigators asked illegal operators if they had a contractor license, several said could work under a friend’s license, but that it would cost more.
- Visalia (Tulare County)
- Several suspects asked for excessive down payments and did not carry workers’ compensation insurance for employees.
- Yuba City (Sutter County)
- A suspect was jailed for an active warrant related to an unpaid citation from a previous CSLB sting operation; another was on parole.
Location Notices to Appear Partner Agencies Apple Valley
San Bernardino County
18 San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department
Apple Valley Code Enforcement
19 City of Cypress Police Department Lafayette
Contra Costa County
17 Lafayette Police Department Paso Robles
San Luis Obispo County
10 San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office
Paso Robles Police Department
Santa Clara County
6 Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office Sunnyvale
Santa Clara County
9 Sunnyvale Police Department Visalia
10 Tulare County District Attorney’s Office
California Department of Insurance
California Highway Patrol
16 Sutter County District Attorney’s Office
Yolo County District Attorney’s Office
CSLB encourages consumers to always “Check The License First” by visiting www.cslb.ca.gov or calling its toll-free automated line: 800.321.CSLB (2752). Also, visit CSLB’s website for tips about how to hire a contractor and to sign up for CSLB Email Alerts.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates about 290,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2013-14, CSLB helped recover nearly $51 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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