Online Advertisements Lead CSLB Investigators to Unlicensed Contractors in Los Angeles County


Seventeen suspects cited for unlicensed contracting and illegal advertisements

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SACRAMENTO – Technology makes it extremely convenient for us to access almost anything in the palm of our hands. This makes it easy for consumers to find contractors to work on their construction projects by browsing through websites and apps like Facebook, Craigslist, and Yelp, to name a few. However, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) warns people to be cautious when using these methods because “contractors” advertising online may not always be as qualified as they appear. This was proved true during an undercover sting operation held in Palmdale last week. Sixteen people were cited for alleged unlicensed contracting; over half of the suspects caught were found through illegal online advertisements.

CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) members compiled a list of suspected unlicensed contractors by searching through Craigslist, Facebook, and business cards collected from the surrounding area. On May 23-24, 2018, investigators posed as owners of a property near Sierra Highway and invited these suspects to place bids on home improvement projects. Bids ranged from $1,100 for painting services to $7,500 for a full interior remodel on an apartment unit. A contractor license is required for all projects that cost $500 or more for labor and materials combined.

All 17 individuals placed bids above the legal threshold and received 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. Penalties are more severe with each successive violation. 

Each suspect received an additional 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.

“The convenience of searching for contractors online may be tempting for consumers, but some advertisements are not as credible as they seem,” said CSLB Registrar David R. Fogt. “We encourage consumers to come to us first, because it is just as easy for them to use CSLB’s ‘Find My Licensed Contractor’ feature or to verify a contractor’s license number on our website.”

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. Using this feature will assure the consumer that they will be referred to licensed contractors.

Each person was cited with the assistance of the California Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigation and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. All offenders were ordered to appear in court on August 22-23, 2018, at 8:30 a.m. in Antelope Valley Superior Court, 42011 4th St W, Lancaster, CA 93534.

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

DAY 1

SUSPECT NAME

CITY OF RESIDENCE

LICENSE

CLASSIFICATION

ALLEGED

VIOLATIONS

 

Fredy Saul Navas

Lancaster

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Illegal advertising,
Excessive down payment

Mario Ramirez

Los Angeles

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising

Richard David Monge

Lancaster

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

Mario A. Gallegos

Palmdale

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising

Anthony John Lane Sr.

Lancaster

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising

Carlos Luna-Arellano

Palmdale

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Illegal advertising,
Excessive down payment

Mario Ivan Rodriguez

Palmdale

B– General Building

Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising

Jesus Federico Vasconcelos

Palmdale

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

Cruz Huinac-Juarez

Lancaster

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising

Edmund Dyer

Palmdale

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising

 

DAY 2

SUSPECT NAME

CITY OF RESIDENCE

LICENSE

CLASSIFICATION

ALLEGED

VIOLATIONS

 

Dereck Ernesto Acosta

Lancaster

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising

 

Martin Carpio

Palmdale

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising

Rick Alten Dean

Lancaster

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Illegal advertising,
Excessive down payment

Gilbert Montelongo

Lancaster

B– General Building

Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising

Ebers Wilson Acevedo

Palmdale

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

Dustin Jay McCallum

Lancaster

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising

David Victory Fainblit

Lancaster

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,

Illegal advertising

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 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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