CSLB Sting in Roseville Reveals Why Consumers Should Take Time to Research Contractors Before Hiring


Fifteen suspects cited for various illegal contracting activities; one may face a felony conviction

SACRAMENTO – It is crucial that consumers do thorough research before they hire a contractor to work on their home improvement projects. An undercover sting operation in Placer County, conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), revealed why people should take their time finding qualified contractors. On February 21-22, 2018, 15 people were given citations for alleged illegal contracting violations, with assistance from the Placer County District Attorney's Office and Roseville Police Department.

CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) members posed as homeowners of a single-family home near Santucci Park to receive bids on home improvement projects. Investigators found suspects by searching through online advertisements and leads from CSLB's Intake Mediation Center (IMC). The IMC receives complaints and leads about unlicensed activity from consumers and forwards these cases to SWIFT for investigators to pursue.

Individuals were invited to the home to place bids on projects they claimed to specialize in through their advertisements. Bids ranged from $850 for interior painting to $16,000 for a new deck and fence. A contractor license is required for all projects that cost $500 or more for labor and materials combined.

Thirteen individuals who placed bids above the legal threshold were given a citation for alleged unlicensed contracting (Business and Professions Code (BPC) § 7028). 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 can carry a mandatory sentence of up to 90 days in jail.

Fifteen of the suspects received a citation for the misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising (BPC § 7027.1) for the ads that led investigators to invite them to the sting. State law requires that unlicensed contractors note in all advertising that they are not licensed, and licensed contractors must list their license number. One suspect included a license number in his advertisement, however, this license number was not only expired, but it did not belong to him. He may face felony charges for using a contractor license number that did not belong to him (BPC § 7027.3).

In addition to these violations, one person was cited for working as an unregistered salesperson (BPC § 7153), one did not have workers' compensation (WC) insurance for his employee (Labor Code section 3700.5), and another was cited for requiring an excessive down payment (BPC § 7159.5). It's illegal for contractors to ask for more than 10 percent down or $1,000 for home improvement projects, whichever is less.

"It only takes a few minutes for a consumer to verify a contractor's license number with CSLB, and it is worth it to do a little extra research," said CSLB Registrar David R. Fogt. "Consumers should also take advantage of CSLB's new Find My Licensed Contractor feature which allows you to compile a list of all licensed contractors in a specific area."

All California licensed contractors are required to pass trade and law examinations and undergo thorough background checks. By hiring a licensed contractor the consumer also has more leverage if something goes wrong. CSLB licensed contractors are also required to hold $15,000 contractor bonds and have WC insurance for all employees. All of this information can be verified on CSLB's website.

All offenders were ordered to appear in Placer County Superior Court, 10820 Justice Center Drive, Roseville, CA 95678.

NOTE: All suspects are presumed innocent until their case is resolved.

DAY 1
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Hugo Carranza
Elk Grove
C-33 – Painting and Decorating Illegal Advertising,
Unregistered salesperson
Donald Solomon
Sacramento
C-8 – Concrete Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Martin Jalil Abraham
Rancho Cordova
C-13 – Fencing
D-41 – Siding & Decking
Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive down payment
Eva Kilma
Sacramento
C-33 – Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Wade Johnson
Penn Valley
C-13 – Fencing Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Brian Cameron
Cameron Park
C-13 – Fencing Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Ifeanacho Okpalugo
Sacramento
C-13 – Fencing Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Dmytro Radchenko
Antelope
C-13 – Fencing Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Walter Kiess
Sacramento
C-36 – Plumbing Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising

DAY 2
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Jacob Daniel
Sacramento
C-29 – Masonry Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
David Christopher Herold Jr.
Rancho Cordova
C-33 – Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Andy Lane Apollo
Orangeville
C-4 – Boiler, Water Heating & Steam Fitting Illegal Advertising
Jaime Ramos
Marysville
C-8 – Concrete Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Antonio Esquivel
Sacramento
C-13 – Fencing Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No workers comp insurance
Rayen Michael Robbins
Sacramento
C-5 – Cabinet, Millwork, & Finish Carpentry Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Fraudulent use of a contractor license number

CSLB encourages consumers to always "check the license first" before hiring a contractor by visiting www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). CSLB has introduced a new website feature to help consumers start their search for a licensed contractor. The new "Find My Licensed Contractor" feature enables users to build a list of all licensed contractors, sorted by trade, in a specific geographic area.

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California 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 2016-17, CSLB helped recover over $47 million in ordered restitution for consumers.


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