SACRAMENTO – Nearly 80 people face various criminal charges after being caught earlier this month by the Contractors State License Board during 13 undercover sting operations at seven locations throughout California.
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Among those arrested in CSLB’s summer California Blitz were a convicted felon, a registered sex offender, and two suspects caught with drugs or drug paraphernalia.
Investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team conducted stings on July 17 and 18 in Artesia (Los Angeles County), Fresno (Fresno County), Long Beach (Los Angeles County), Oxnard (Ventura County), Redding (Shasta County), Sacramento (Sacramento County), and South Lake Tahoe (El Dorado County). SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvement projects, including painting, electrical, landscaping, flooring, tile, concrete, ornamental metal, fencing, and tree removal work.
In South Lake Tahoe, working in conjunction with the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Insurance, 12 suspected unlicensed contractors were arrested.
Six of those arrested are residents of Nevada. One suspect bid $9,800 for a new deck; another bid $8,000 for landscaping work.
In Sacramento County 11 people were arrested. Two arrested were taken to jail: One for possession of an illegal substance; the other for possession of drug paraphernalia and having an arrest warrant.
A total of 79 individuals were arrested, given a Notice to Appear in Superior Court, and now may face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028). The penalty for a conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. At least one suspect is a repeat offender and could face a mandatory 90-day jail sentence if convicted a second time.
Fifty-two of the individuals also may be charged with illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code section 7027.1). State law requires contractors to place their license number in all print, broadcast, and online advertisements. Those without a license can advertise to perform jobs valued at less than $500, but the ad must state that they are not a licensed contractor. The penalty is a fine of $700 to $1,000.
Thirteen others may be charged with requesting an excessive down payment (Business and Professions Code section 7159.5). In California, a home improvement project down payment cannot exceed 10 percent of the contract total or $1,000, whichever is less. This misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine.
Thirteen of the phony contractors also were issued Stop Orders (Business and Professions Code section 7127). CSLB investigators can halt job site activity when any person with or without a contractor license does not have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees. Failure to comply with a Stop Order can result in misdemeanor charges and penalties, including 60 days in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
Sting totals may increase as some suspects are expected to provide their bids via email or fax at a later date. A majority of those caught this week were identified through illegal ads on craigslist.org.
“CSLB and its partners in law enforcement are serious about enforcing California’s consumer protection laws,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “Unlicensed, illegal activity that puts homeowners at risk and legitimate contractors at a competitive disadvantage will not be tolerated.”