83 Unlicensed Contractors Feel Sting of CSLB’s Spring Blitz
Statewide undercover operation uncovers a variety of illegal contracting practices in six cities
SPRING BLITZ!!!!! PHOTOS
SPRING BLITZ VIDEO LINK
SACRAMENTO – Investigators with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) caught 83 persons flouting the state’s construction and home repair contracting laws during CSLB’s annual “Spring Blitz” sting operation April 5-7, 2016, in six cities throughout California.
CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Teams (SWIFT) conducted the operations at houses offered for the purpose in Bakersfield (Kern County), Salinas (Monterey County), Santa Ana (Orange County), Santa Rosa (Sonoma County), Yuba City (Sutter County), and Yucaipa (San Bernardino County). Local law enforcement agencies and state agencies lent assistance to SWIFT investigators. Authorities had the most success rounding up unlicensed contractors in Bakersfield, where 21 persons received citations for illegal contracting during the two-day sting there April 5-6. CSLB’s operation in Santa Ana netted the next highest number of citations with 18, while 15 persons were cited in the Salinas sting on April 6-7.
“We find that sting operations are the most effective way to gauge the level of illegal contracting in an area, and send a message to those contracting without a license,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “Unfortunately, despite our year-round efforts to deter this illegal activity, unlicensed contractors still think they can beat the system and do work that they’re not qualified for.”
SWIFT investigators who set up operations in each city scoured online advertising sites, newspapers, phone books, local fliers and business cards to find persons suspected of performing illegal contracting work. Complaints to CSLB and local government agencies about particular contractors also helped fill out the contact list. State law requires a contractor license for construction or home repair work that totals $500 or more for materials and/or labor.
Investigators then evaluated each property to come up with a list of possible projects. For this Spring Blitz, those suspected of illegal contracting were invited to compete for painting, landscaping, cabinetry, flooring, garage door installation, fencing, plumbing, concrete, and tree removal work at the various sites. All 83 persons were given Notices to Appear in their respective superior courts for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028). The penalty for a first conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
In addition, 69 were cited on a 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. Violators can be fined $700 to $1,000.
In Bakersfield, 11 of the 21 cited did not have workers’ compensation (WC) insurance (Labor Code §3700.5), which puts workers at risk of not being covered if they are injured and exposes homeowners to liability for on-site injuries.
Blitz totals may increase as some suspects are expected to provide their bids at a later date to undercover investigators via text, email or fax.
“We will be doing more stings and construction site inspections around this state this year,” Christenson warned, “so those who are not properly licensed should beware. We also urge consumers who plan on hiring for home repair or construction to check the license status of those they’re considering on CSLB’s website.”STING NOTES
Contact CSLB for list of those who received citations.Bakersfield (Kern County)
- Three of the 11 phony contractors cited for lack of WC insurance 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 WC 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.
- One bidder was transported to jail after it was discovered he was sought on a bench warrant for an alleged child support violation and suspended driver’s license.
- Two men who were repeat unlicensed contracting offenders were caught again.
- Five repeat illegal contracting offenders were among the 18 cited. One had $60,000 in outstanding warrants related to a previous sting operation and a failure to appear in court on those misdemeanor charges. One unlicensed contractor submitted a $27,700 bid for a concrete project, the highest quote of all received during the Spring Blitz.
- Offers to perform landscaping projects at the house, in the Oakmont Village senior community, elicited the highest bids for this operation: one for $8,145 and the other for $5,000.
- This operation turned into more of an educational session for some unlicensed contractors, including one who did the right thing and declined to bid on a project, instead recommending that licensed professionals do the work.
- One man who was cited for illegal contracting found himself in deeper trouble when a records check revealed he was wanted on a $10,000 traffic warrant. He was given a Notice to Appear in court on that charge.
Partnering agencies are noted below.
|Location||Notices to Appear||Partner Agencies|
|21||Kern County District Attorney’s Office
California Department of Insurance
Monterey County District Attorney’s Office
Salinas Police Department
|Santa Rosa |
|13||Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office|
|Santa Ana |
|18||Orange County District Attorney’s Office
California Highway Patrol
|6||Sutter/Yolo County District Attorney’s Offices|
San Bernardino County
|10||San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office
The California Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates almost 290,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2014-15, CSLB helped recover nearly $68 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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