Camp Fire Survivors Encouraged to Stay Vigilant as Multiple Agencies Partner in Rebuilding Undercover Sting


Operation catches unlicensed contractors trying to solicit for work in Paradise

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SACRAMENTO - The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has a warning for survivors of the Camp Fire in Paradise and other nearby communities in Butte County. Homeowners need to remain vigilant and not hire anyone to help them rebuild their home if they don't have a valid California contractors' license.

The warning comes after CSLB, the Butte County District Attorney's Office, Paradise Police Department, and California Department of Insurance conducted a two-day undercover sting operation.

In the operation, investigators from CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) invited suspected unlicensed contractors to a property overlooking Little Butte Creek. The targets came to the property and gave undercover investigators bids for jobs including fencing, plumbing, concrete and vegetation demolition, and excavation.

A total of nine suspects provided bids ranging from $600 to $25,000. In California, all home improvement jobs from damage totaling $500 or more in combined labor and material costs must be performed by a licensed contractor (Business and Professions Code (BPC) § 7028). Punishment includes a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to six months in county jail.

Those nine and three other suspects may face a charge of illegal advertising. Licensed contractors must display their license number in all advertisements; unlicensed contractors must state in their ads that they are not licensed (BPC § 7027.1). The penalty includes a fine of $700 to $1,000.

Other violations cited at the operation included the fraudulent use of a contractor's license number (BPC § 7027.3), illegally large down payment (BPC § 7159.5(a)(3)), and failure to secure workers' compensation insurance (Labor Code § 3700.5).

The cases will now be turned over to the Butte County District Attorney's Office for prosecution.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said, "We have made it our mission to protect our Camp Fire victims in Butte County from over-reaching unlicensed contractors'. Proactive enforcement of contractor licensing requirements protects our consumers and legitimate contractors alike. Consumers are protected from illegal contracts and poor workmanship, and law-abiding contractors are protected from unfair competition by any who attempt to avoid the law's requirements."

"While it wasn't easy for our investigators to identify targets for this operation, we know there are still a substantial number of unlicensed contractors trying to get rebuilding work in the Paradise area," said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. "That's why homeowners need to stay on-guard and be careful as they look to hire people to help them rebuild."

Homeowners take a huge risk when they hire unlicensed contractors. Most are not properly insured and likely don't have the skills or knowledge to perform the work. Plus, recourse for homeowners is limited if an unlicensed contractor's work is substandard or never completed.

"When contractors operate without workers' compensation insurance or a proper license they not only are breaking the law, they are putting their workers and homeowners in jeopardy," said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. "Unlicensed contractors who prey on wildfire survivors for a quick buck need to know we will stay vigilant, and we will catch you."

Consumers can use the "Find My Licensed Contractor" feature to download and/or print a list of qualified licensed contractors in their area. They can also us CSLB's "Check A License First" to view and verify information on a licensed contractor.

Suspects were either booked into the Butte County Main Jail or issued citations that are scheduled to appear Friday, March 20, 2020 at the Butte County Superior Court (MAP), 1 Court Street, Oroville, CA 95965.

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

DAY 1 - JANUARY 24, 2020

SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE
CLASSIFICATION
ALLEGED
VIOLATIONS
John David Popejoy
Oroville
C-13 Fencing Contracting w/o License
Fraudulent Use of Incorrect License #
Illegal Advertising
Excessive Down Payment
Possession of Controlled Substance
Charles Robert Forcinio
Oroville
C-27 Landscaping Contracting w/o License
Illegal Advertising
Stacy James Hunter
Magalia
C-13 Fencing Contracting w/o License
Illegal Advertising
Dwight Gene Skinner-Howard
Yuba City
C-13 Fencing Contracting w/o License
Illegal Advertising
Arnett Blair Baker II
Oroville
C-13 Fencing Illegal Advertising
Emmanuel Alvarez Diaz
Olivehurst
C-13 Fencing Contracting w/o License
Illegal Advertising
Alejandro Baltazar Garcia
Olivehurst
C-13 Fencing Contracting w/o License
Illegal Advertising

DAY 2 - JANUARY 25, 2020

SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE
CLASSIFICATION
ALLEGED
VIOLATIONS
Raul Ruiz
Chico
C-21 Building Moving / Demolition Contracting w/o License
Roberto Lopez Casillas
Gridley
C-36 Plumbing Contracting w/o License
Illegal Advertising
Segundo Odi
Gridley
C-21 Building Moving / Demolition Illegal Advertising
Ignacio Osegura Lua
Marysville
C-8 Concrete Contracting w/o License
Illegal Advertising
No Workers' Compensation Insurance
Brian Beitman
Chico
C-33 Painting Contracting w/o License
Illegal Advertising

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 2018-19, CSLB helped recover over $49 million in ordered restitution for consumers.


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