Two Years After Tubbs Fire, CSLB Finds Unlicensed Contractors Trying to Get Other Home Improvement Jobs


Homeowners Reminded to Make Sure Contractors are Properly Licensed for All Jobs Over $500

SACRAMENTO- In 2017, the Tubbs Fire struck Napa, Sonoma, and Lake Counties and nearly 6,000 structures were destroyed, many of them homes. Santa Rosa communities are continuing to rebuild and although the Contractors State License Board's (CSLB) attention has been focused on protecting disaster survivors from being victimized by unlicensed contractors, folks not directly affected by the wildfires should also stay on their guard when hiring someone for home improvement work.

At a single-family home in Coffey Park, a property not directly affected by the wildfire, CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) partnered with the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office and the Marin County District Attorney's Office, went undercover as homeowners, and invited alleged unlicensed contractors to place bids on home improvement work.

A dozen unlicensed contractors showed-up and provided the undercover investigators with bids for jobs like landscaping, painting, paving, masonry, and remodeling the bathroom.

One of the suspects was Jeffrey Lynn Martinez, someone who was previously convicted for contracting illegally and was found to have an active arrest warrant for his crime.

The lowest bid was for exterior painting of the home for $3,000, the highest was for $20,000 for landscaping. Martinez, who should have known better, went forward with a $5,000 bid for painting - well above the legal threshold for contracting without a license.

In California, it's illegal for an unlicensed person to perform any contracting work on a project valued at $500 or more in combined labor and material costs. As a result, the suspects could now face a misdemeanor charge of contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) §7028(b)). First-conviction penalties include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

Suspect Martinez is facing second conviction penalties, which may result in 90 days in jail, and a fine of 20 percent of the contract price or $5,000, whichever is greater (BPC §7028(c)).

"Consumers should be sure to take some simple steps before hiring anyone to work in or around their home," said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. "The fastest way is to make sure they have a state license, and to check the license status using CSLB's Instant License Check. Homeowners should also use CSLB's Find My Licensed Contractor feature to download and/or print a list of qualified licensed contractors in their area."

Eleven individuals could face an additional misdemeanor charge for their illegal advertisements. Licensed contractors must display their license number in all advertisements; unlicensed contractors must state in all ads that they do not have a license. (BPC §7027.1) The penalty for violating the advertising rules for unlicensed contractors is a fine of $700 to $1,000.

Two of those suspects will face an additional charge for illegally using a contractor license number (BPC §7027.3). Punishment for that charge may include a fine of up to $10,000, and up to one year in state prison, or both.

In addition, one of the bidders asked for an excessive down payment before starting work and was also written-up for that alleged violation. It is illegal to ask for more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less (BPC §7159.5 (a)(3)(b)).

One suspect did not carry workers' compensation (WC) insurance policies to cover those working for them (Labor Code section 3700.5). This resulted in a "stop order" (a legal demand to cease all employee labor at a job site).

All suspects were ordered to appear in court on December 10, 2019 at 8:30 a.m. at the Sonoma County Superior Court, Hall of Justice, 600 Administrative Drive, 105J, Santa Rosa, CA 95403 (MAP).

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

SANTA ROSA - DAY 1 - OCTOBER 16


SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE
CLASSIFICATION
ALLEGED
VIOLATIONS
Danny Elizardo Gonzalez Perez
Novato
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contractor Contracting without a license, Illegal advertising, & Incorrect use of License
Michael Paul Leasure
Santa Rosa
C-10 Electrical Contractor Contracting without a license, Illegal advertising & No Workers' Compensation
Julio Espinoa Chavez
Santa Rosa
B-General Contractor Contracting without a license & Illegal advertising
Phillip Edward Health
Sebastopol
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contractor Contracting without a license & Illegal advertising
Jacob Castillo
Santa Rosa
C-27 Landscaping Contractor Contracting without a license & Illegal advertising
Miguel Angel Morales Vasquez
Napa
C-12 Earthwork and Paving Contractor
Contracting without a license & Illegal advertising
Jonathan David Orsi
Sebastopol
C33- Painting and Decorating Contractor Contracting without a license & Illegal advertising
Lauren Carol Pfundstein
Sebastopol
C33-Painting and Decorating Contractor Contracting without a license & Illegal advertising
Camilo Arenas Rios
Santa Rosa
C-29 Masonry Contractor Contracting without a license & Illegal advertising
SANTA ROSA - DAY 2 - OCTOBER 17


SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE
CLASSIFICATION
ALLEGED
VIOLATIONS
Luc Van Nguyen
San Francisco
C-27 Landscaping Contractor Contracting without a license & Illegal advertising
Jeffery Lynn Martinez
Cotati
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contractor Contracting without a license
Hans Georg Oberth
Petaluma
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contractor Contracting without a license & Illegal advertising

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates more than 285,000 contractors in California and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2018-2019, CSLB helped recover over $49 million in ordered restitution for consumers.


Archives: 2019 2018