Announcements
CSLB Press Release
CSLB Press Release - 03/25/10
Contractors State License Board Stings 161 in Largest-Ever Statewide Undercover
Operation
Criminal backgrounds underscore huge risk consumers take when hiring phony
contractors

SACRAMENTO —Investigators have wrapped up the largest undercover sting
operation in the Contractors State License Board’s (CSLB) 81-year history. On
Tuesday and Wednesday, March 23 and 24, 2010, nearly three dozen CSLB
investigators, including members of CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team
(SWIFT), partnered with 15 law enforcement agencies to conduct simultaneous sting
operations in 11 cities around California.
The "California Blitz" targeted unlicensed contractors, with a particular emphasis on
repeat offenders and those who don’t carry workers’ compensation insurance for
their employees. Over the two-day period, 161 people were arrested. Most were
issued a Notice to Appear (NTA) in court and will face misdemeanor charges of
contracting without a license and, in many cases, illegal advertising.
Four suspects were taken to jail on felony charges; three of them had arrest warrants,
including one suspect who had five different warrants for charges including
obstruction of justice, possession of a controlled substance, and two DUIs. Another
had a warrant for embezzlement and diversion of construction funds. One of the
misdemeanor suspects had previously been convicted of burglary, child abuse and
domestic violence. Another had his CSLB license revoked in 2005 and is a
registered sex offender. A third was previously convicted of armed robbery and
possession of a dangerous weapon.
A total of eight repeat offenders were caught, including one suspect who was
convicted by a jury last month in Orange County for contracting without a license.
There were more than three dozen no-shows at the various sting locations and, in
other instances, suspects fled when they thought they were about to be stung. This
indicates that the true number of repeat offenders might have higher, had they been
caught.
The sting operations were conducted in Sonoma, Santa Clara, Sacramento, El
Dorado, Madera, Kern, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino
Counties. Joining CSLB were local law enforcement agencies and district attorney
offices, as well as the California Department of Insurance and the Department of
Toxic Substances.
At all the undercover locations, CSLB investigators posed as homeowners and
invited suspected unlicensed operators to bid on various construction jobs ranging
from landscaping, tree trimming, and roofing to masonry, concrete, tile and painting.
By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more for labor and
materials must be licensed by CSLB. Since 2005, those applying for a new license
or to change their license have been required to submit fingerprints for a criminal
background check.
"Homeowners need to be aware of the risk they take when they hire someone who is
not licensed to do work in their home," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "What
seems like a good deal almost always ends up costing a lot more. Many of these
phony contractors are people you really don't want inside your house or around your
children."
Because unlicensed operators don't carry workers’ compensation insurance, they
often submit lower bids. But, if one of their workers is injured on the job, the
homeowner could be liable. Plus, if there is a disagreement or something goes
wrong with the project, the homeowner may have few options for recovering their
money from an unlicensed contractor.
The goal of the "California Blitz" is to draw attention to the dangers to consumers
who hire these phony contractors, to educate unlicensed workers about California
laws, and to encourage those who qualify to get their contractor license. The
misdemeanor charges carry a maximum of six months in jail and/or a fine up to
$5,000 for the first offense. A second violation carries a mandatory 90-day jail
sentence as well as a possible fine up to $5,000.
"Unlicensed activity is a threat to all Californians," said Department of Consumer
Affairs Director Brian Stiger. "It threatens the safety of consumers, it robs our
communities of resources, and it puts reputable, licensed professionals at a
disadvantage. The efforts of the Contractors State License Board are crucial in
helping to protect consumers from physical and financial peril and ensuring that our
economy is not imperiled by unlicensed individuals."
"When consumers hire unlicensed contractors, the contractors’ work is unverified
and is often times unsafe and unfinished. This leaves an even greater burden on their
victims, who are already vulnerable and in need of help," stated Orange County
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. "These types of cases protect consumers and
put unlicensed contractors on notice that they will be prosecuted."
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