Lake County Residents Urged to Use Caution When Hiring People to Work In and Around Their Homes


Contractors State License Board undercover sting operation catches 11, including repeat offender

SACRAMENTO - Many Lake County homeowners have faced rough times over the past few years as the county has been home to several deadly and destructive wildfires. A lot of recent attention in the region is focused on protecting fire survivors from unlicensed contractors.

But that doesn't mean area residents not impacted by the wildfires should forget to "check the license" before hiring licensed contractors for home improvement projects. A recent Contractors State License Board (CSLB) undercover sting in Clearlake Oaks found eleven alleged unlicensed contractors, with one suspect making a $10,000 bid.

The highest bid of the February 12-13, 2020 operation was to install fencing and was well over the legal limit for contracting without a license. In California, it's illegal for an unlicensed person to bid for or perform any home improvement valued at $500 or more in combined labor and material costs.

The alleged unlicensed contractors gave bids for home improvement jobs, including landscaping, carpentry, tree service, and painting. They will be referred to the Lake County District Attorney's Office for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) §7028). First-conviction penalties include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

CSLB partnered with the Lake County D.A.'s to conduct the undercover operation. CSLB Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) members posed as owners of a mobile home community clubhouse and invited alleged unlicensed contractors to place bids on renovation work.

One repeat offender was among those caught in the operation. Ronald Dean Ridley was cited for illegal advertising in January 2016 and paid a $400 civil penalty. In October 2018, Ridley was cited for contracting without a license at a prior sting in Lake County. That case is still pending with the Lake County D.A.'s Office. A conviction on that charge could subject Ridley to a more severe second conviction penalty, which could result in a mandatory 90 days in jail, and a fine of 20 percent of the contract price or $5,000, whichever is greater (BPC §7028(c)).

Among those cited for illegal contracting, four were planning on providing tree services for the sting location.

"Tree trimming and removing is a highly skilled trade that could result in serious injury," said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. "Illegal tree work can lead to property damage for consumers and could be potentially fatal for those who are not properly licensed."

Besides holding a CSLB license, workers must also be covered with workers' compensation insurance. Without it, a homeowner may be liable if for medical bills if someone gets hurt on their property. Since they weren't legally licensed to do the work, a homeowner's insurance policy might not apply.

A licensed contractor's workers' compensation insurance information can easily be found on CSLB's website using the "Instant License Check" feature.

Consumers can check a contractor's license by searching their license number, name, or business name. Besides workers' comp information, the search results also reveal whether the contractor's license is active and in good standing. The contractor's individual page also lists bond information, and if CSLB has taken any actions against the contractor's license.

Seven individuals also could face a misdemeanor charge for illegal advertising. 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.

When hiring a contractor, consumers should also remember:

  • Watch your down payment. The legal limit for a down payment is 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is lower.
  • You should always get three bids from licensed contractors before hiring anyone to perform home improvement work.
  • Homeowners can use CSLB's "Find My Licensed Contractor" feature to build and download a list of qualified licensed contractors in their area.
  • Those interested in getting a contractor license are encouraged to attend one of our licensing workshops.

All suspects were ordered to appear at the Superior Court of California, County of Lake on March 24 at 8:15 a.m. on 255 North Forbes Street, 4th Floor, Lakeport, CA 95453 (MAP).

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

CLEARLAKE OAKS DAY 1 – February 12, 2020

SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE
CLASSIFICATION
ALLEGED
VIOLATIONS
Tommy Bruce Chisam
Clearlake Oaks
C- 27 Landscaping Contractor Contracting without a license
Ronald Dean Ridley Sr.
Clearlake Oaks
C-6 Carpentry Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Jose Samuel Gamez-Meza
Clearlake
C-61/ D-49 Tree Service Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Servando Juarez Flores dba Pimentel's Yard Service
Clearlake
C-13 Fencing Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Keith Walter Holmgren
Santa Rosa
C-61/ D-49 Tree Service Illegal advertising, contracting without a license

CLEARLAKE OAKS DAY 2 - February 13, 2020

SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE
CLASSIFICATION
ALLEGED
VIOLATIONS
Jeffrey Scott Wilder
Upper Lake
C-33 Painting Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Kristy Ann Buettner
Lakeport
C-33 Painting Contractor Contracting without a license
Edilberto Lopez Perez
Kelseyvillle
C-6 Carpentry Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Rodney Jerome Gehlen Jr.
Clearlake
C-33 Painting Contractor Contracting without a license
Eric Michael Hamlin
Santa Rosa
D-49 Tree Service Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Robert Lloyd Fouche
Santa Rosa
D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting without a license

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 2018-2019, CSLB helped recover over $49 million in ordered restitution for consumers.

CSLB Media Contacts

Rick LopesChief of Public Affairs
916.255.4161
rick.lopes@cslb.ca.gov

Kevin DurawaInformation Officer
916.255.4693
kevin.durawa@cslb.ca.gov


Archives: 2019 2018