Contractors State License Board Sting in L.A. County Nets 11 Suspected Unlicensed Contractors


Sting suspect makes $23,000 bid to undercover investigators

SACRAMENTO - Los Angeles County residents may think an expensive price tag on a home renovation project means they are getting quality workmanship. But that isn't always the case. A recent Contractors State License Board (CSLB) undercover sting caught 11 suspects contracting without a license, including someone who made a $23,000 bid.

This high bid from the February 26-27, 2020 operation provided to undercover investigators was to stucco and paint the outside of a home and detached converted garage. That bid is 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.

"Consumers need to protect themselves by hiring a licensed contractor, especially when taking on a project that costs tens of thousands of dollars," said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. "Just because someone is asking for a lot of money to do the work doesn't mean they have the skills, insurance, or know the trade well enough to get the job done right."

CSLB partnered with the Hawthorne City Attorney's Office and the California Department of Insurance to conduct the undercover operation. CSLB Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) members posed as owners of a three-bedroom home and invited alleged unlicensed contractors to place bids on renovation projects.

The 11 alleged unlicensed contractors gave bids for home improvement jobs, including painting, plumbing, and concrete work. They will be referred to the Hawthorne 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.

Before hiring a contractor, consumers should perform an "Instant License Check" on the CSLB website. This feature allows homeowners to search by license number, name, or business name to find individual contractor pages that show if the contractor's license is active and in good standing. The page also lists bond and workers' compensation insurance information. Workers' compensation insurance is required if the contractor has any employees.

The 11 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 Los Angeles Superior Court of California, Southwest District, Inglewood Courthouse on May 26 and 27 at 8:30 a.m. on 1 Regent Street, Department 7, Room 303, Inglewood, CA 90301 (MAP).

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

HAWTHORNE DAY 1 - February 26, 2020

SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE
CLASSIFICATION
ALLEGED
VIOLATIONS
Manuel Ponce
Long Beach
C- 36 Plumbing Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Armando Porfirio Sunza
Carson
C- 36 Plumbing Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Daniel Louis Orme
Gardena
C- 36 Plumbing Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Robert Antonio Moncada
Long Beach
C- 36 Plumbing Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Rodrigo Melgoza
Los Angeles
C- 36 Plumbing Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Reynaldo Fong
Los Angeles
C-33 Painting Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license

HAWTHORNE DAY 2 - February 27, 2020

SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE
CLASSIFICATION
ALLEGED
VIOLATIONS
Efrain Sotelo Flores
Los Angeles
General B Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Samy Fahmy Guirguis
Marina Del Rey
General B Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Enrique Cortez Perez
Torrance
C-8 Concrete Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Lei Chen
Rosemead
General B Contractor Illegal advertising, contracting without a license
Vahag Hovanessian
Reseda
General B Contractor Illegal advertising, 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


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