CSLB Reminds Unlicensed Painters to Brush Up on the Law During Undercover Sting Operation in Merced


Seventeen cited for illegal activities including no license and no workers compensation insurance

SACRAMENTO - Rainy weather did not stop unlicensed workers from trying to paint the town in Merced. Partnering with the Merced County District Attorney's Office on March 21-22, 2018, investigators from the Contractors State License Board's (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) cited 17 individuals for unlicensed activities. That's the most productive of sixteen stings conducted in Merced over the last five years.

SWIFT investigators invited suspected unlicensed contractors to a single-family home near Fahrens Creek to place bids on home improvement projects. These suspects were found by searching through online advertisements and from business cards investigators collected.

California law requires licensed contractors to place their license number in all advertisements and to state that they are unlicensed if they do not have a license. Advertisements include, but are not limited to: online posts, business cards, newspaper ads, social media posts, television ads, and ads placed on vehicles. All 17 of the suspects who showed up to the sting received a citation for the misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code § 7027.1)

Bids ranged from $750 to $3,000 for interior painting labor. The highest bid given was $6,000 for labor for ceramic tile installation. Seventeen people placed bids above the $500 legal threshold (Labor & materials) When a state contractor license is required, and were given a citation for alleged unlicensed contracting (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.

Seven may also face charges for not having workers' compensation (WC) insurance for their employees (Labor Code section 3700.5). All CSLB licensed contractors are required to have a WC insurance policy on file, and it is noted on the license record. Licensed contractors who don't have employees must file a WC exemption with CSLB, which is also disclosed by CSLB. There's an exception for roofing contractors, who must carry WC insurance for themselves whether they work solo or have employees (who also must be covered).

CSLB Registrar David Fogt said it's common that unlicensed contractors don't cover their workers with insurance in case they get hurt. Cutting corners like this allows them to offer lower prices, but it presents a big risk for homeowners. If a contractor doesn't have workers' comp to cover employees, the homeowner can be liable for medical costs related to an accident on their property.

"It can be tempting for homeowners to get lured in by what may seem like a good deal at first, but they should do their due diligence to make sure they're hiring qualified workers," said Fogt. "Additional costs can incur later that the homeowner may not be prepared for."

In addition to these violations, seven people were 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.

All offenders were ordered to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. on June 13, 2018, in Merced County Superior Court, 550 W. Main Street, Merced, CA 93540.

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

DAY 1
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Christopher Michael Dickerson
Merced
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers' Compensation
Juan Pablo Gallegos
Merced
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers' Compensation
Hector Ruiz Fausto
Gustine
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Rogelio Guizar Avalas
Winton
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Thomas Fredrick Chisholm
Newman
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Kimberly Dawn Yates
Newman
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Dwight Dupree Torrence
Merced
C-33 Painting and Decorating
C-15 Flooring and Floor Covering
Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Gabriel Eric Fausette
Merced
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment

DAY 2
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Kyle Chase Hutchens
Modesto
C-6 Cabinet, Millwork and Finish Carpentry Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Jacob Allen Toscano
Los Banos
C-54 Ceramic and Mosaic Tile Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers' Compensation
Albert Acevedo, Jr.
Merced
C-27 Landscaping Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Joshua P. Wilmoth
Denair
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers' Compensation
Richard Martinez
Selma
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertisement,
No Workers' Compensation
Alex Nicholas Frank Diaz
Los Banos
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers' Compensation
Steve Lon Martin
Santa Nella
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Rick Kenneth Trillo
Modesto
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Jesus Alvarez
Merced
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers' Compensation

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.


Archives: 2019 2018