California & Nevada Contractors Boards Team Up to Go after Unlicensed Contractors in Lake Tahoe Area


Joint sting operations catch 16 people breaking licensing, advertising & insurance laws

SACRAMENTO - When it comes to licensing home improvement contractors, the states of California and Nevada have some of the strongest consumer protection laws in the nation. This past week, 16 unlicensed contractors learned that the hard way.

The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) teamed with the Nevada State Contractors Board (NSCB) to conduct two undercover sting operations, as well as a sweep of job sites in the South Lake Tahoe area.

NSCB staff were on-site at CSLB's sting in South Lake Tahoe on Wednesday, May 16, 2018. CSLB staff joined NSCB for their sting the following day in Zephyr Cove, Nevada. Investigators posed as a homeowner and solicited home improvement bids from alleged unlicensed contractors.

In the California sting, ten people were caught and now face a misdemeanor charge of contracting without a state license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) section (§) 7028). Bids ranged from $1,100 for tile to $20,000 for installation of concrete pavers. It is against California law to contract for home improvement or construction jobs valued at $500 or more for labor and materials combined without a state-issued contractor license. Penalties for first-time unlicensed contracting convictions include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

Eight of the 10 suspects were also given a Notice to Appear in court for illegal advertising. California contracting law requires unlicensed contractors to state in all advertising that they are not licensed (BPC §7027.1).

Three of the 10 brought workers with them to the sting house and were given stop orders (BPC §7127) and cited for not having workers' compensation insurance (Labor Code §3700.5) for those workers; two of the 10 could face charge for requesting an illegally large down payment (BPC §7159.5(a)3). In California, down payments for home improvement jobs cannot total more than $1,000 or 10% of the contract price, whichever amount is less.

Investigators also swept through 31 jobs sites in the South Lake Tahoe area. The sweep will result in three cases being referred to the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office. Two will be referred for contracting without a license; the third for a worker's compensation insurance violation. Three stop orders and one administrative citation also were issued.

"Enforcement operations like this are just one way our two Boards work closely together throughout the year," said CSLB Registrar David R. Fogt. "Our staffs are constantly talking, working investigations together, and passing along information to each other regarding suspected criminals moving back and forth between California and Nevada."

"These joint sting operations demonstrate Nevada's and California's shared commitment to protecting homeowners from unlicensed individuals," NSCB Executive Officer Margi Grein said. "When they hire unlicensed contractors, property owners are stripped of the protections and recourses available via the Board's full authority and resources."

Six people were caught in the Nevada sting. Four were cited for contracting without a license; two of those were also cited for advertising without a license. Two others were cited only for advertising without a license.

A Nevada state contractor's license is needed for all home improvement jobs that exceed $1000 in labor and material, require a building permit, involve plumbing, electrical, heating or air conditioning, or changes the aesthetic appearance or structural components of a building or property grounds.

The two states also have a reciprocity agreement, making it easier for a contractor licensed in one state, to get a contractor's license in the other.

The suspects listed below, who were caught in the California sting, are scheduled to appear on July 18, 2018, in El Dorado County Superior Court in South Lake Tahoe. (MAP)

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

California Sting Operation
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Andrew James Davis
Carson City, Nevada
C-15 Flooring Contractor Contracting w/o a License,
Illegal Advertising
Symon Cleonvernie Sears
Carson City, Nevada
C-15 Flooring Contractor Contracting w/o a License,
Illegal Advertising
Eduardo Martinez-Medina
Sparks, Nevada
C-54 Tile Contractor Contracting w/o a License,
Illegal Advertising
Carlos Romero
Sun Valley, Nevada
C-61/D-6 Concrete Related Services Contractor Contracting w/o a License,
Illegal Advertising
Frank Anthony Euronis
Reno, Nevada
C-13 Fencing Contractor Contracting w/o a License,
No Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Shawn Brown
South Lake Tahoe, California
C-13 Fencing Contractor Contracting w/o a License
Alberto Ruiz-Lopez
Carson City, Nevada
C-61/D-6 Concrete Related Services Contractor Contracting w/o a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Illegally Large Down Payment,
No Workers’ Compensation Insurance
James Raymond Williams III
South Lake Tahoe, California
C-33 Painting Contractor Contracting w/o a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Steven Anthony Nichols
South Lake Tahoe, California
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting w/o a License,
Illegal Advertising
Leo James Pasquarello
Sparks, Nevada
C-61/D-6 Concrete Related Services Contractor Contracting w/o a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Illegally Large Down Payment

Nevada Sting Operation
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Alberto Ruiz-Lopez
Carson City, Nevada
Multiple Advertising w/o a License
Rigoberto Gonzalez
Incline Village, Nevada
Painting Contracting w/o a License
Javier Tinoco
Incline Village, Nevada
Painting Contracting w/o a License
Elmer Vazquez
Sparks, Nevada
Painting Contracting w/o a License,
Advertising w/o a License
Steven Rose
Carson City, Nevada
Painting Advertising w/o a License
Gershon BenChaim
Reno/Sparks, Nevada
Garage Door Contracting w/o a License,
Advertising w/o a License

CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a building contractor:

  • Only hire contractors who have an “active” CSLB license, and ask to see the contractor’s plastic pocket license
  • Don't hire the first contractor who comes along
  • Don't rush into repairs, no matter how badly they're needed
  • Verify the contractor's license at www.cslb.ca.gov or 1-800-321-CSLB (2752)
  • Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment
  • Don’t sign over any insurance checks to a contractor
  • Don't pay cash, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work
  • Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract
  • Contact CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor, or if you’ve been solicited by someone who isn’t licensed

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 about $47 million in ordered restitution for consumers.


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