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CSLB Press Release - 03/18/13

Contractors State License Board Cracks Down on Unlicensed Activity during California Blitz Operation

Repeat offenders slow to learn crime doesn’t pay

SACRAMENTO — Nearly 80 people face criminal charges after being caught in simultaneous statewide undercover sting operations conducted this week by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Among those arrested during CSLB’s spring California Blitz were a registered sex offender, a suspect with a prior conviction for statutory rape, an individual with an active arrest warrant for corporal punishment of a minor child, one on federal probation for bribery, and several caught using contractor license numbers not belonging to them.

Investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) conducted stings on March 13 and 14, 2013, in Orange (Orange County), Lawndale (Los Angeles County), San Bernardino (San Bernardino County), Chico (Butte County), Oakdale (Stanislaus County), and Bakersfield (Kern County). SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvements such as painting, electrical, landscaping, flooring, drywall, swimming pool maintenance, concrete, masonry, and tree removal work.

A total of 78 individuals were arrested and now may face misdemeanor charges for 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 is a repeat offender and could face a mandatory 90-day jail sentence if convicted a second time.

Fifty-seven 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.

Twenty-four 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.

Seventeen 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.

Fourteen suspects were detained by the Department of Homeland Security / U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for identification and/or deportation. One suspect fled the scene in Bakersfield.

Operation totals may increase as some suspects are expected to provide their bids via email or fax. A majority of those caught this week were identified through ads on craigslist.org.

STING NOTES

Chico

• Arrest of Guillermo Serrano Tejas, whose license (#500728) was revoked in 1990.

Oakdale

• Arrest of Emilio Quakenbush, who gave a $22,500 bid for drywall work, is a registered sex offender.

• Arrest of Michael Anthony Giuiland, who used a CSLB license number not belonging to him. Giuiland is on federal probation for bribery.

Bakersfield

• Arrest of Benigno Arguelles Martinez, who has a prior conviction for statutory rape.

• Arrest of Gustavo Martinez and Juan Garcia Torres after they portrayed themselves as business partners and gave a bid to replace a driveway. When CSLB investigators identified themselves, Torres fled in their vehicle, leaving his partner behind. Torres had previous deportations and served prison time for illegal entry.

• Arrest of Juan Manuel Villanueva, who was taken into custody for having false identification and on an arrest warrant for corporal punishment of a minor child and vehicle theft.

• Arrest of Jerry Allen Hensen, who brought an employee with him to give a bid to remove three 60- to 70-foot trees. The employee was carrying drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine, and was taken into custody. His is vehicle was impounded.

Lawndale

• Arrest of Edward Fragoso, whose CSLB license (#925861) was suspended in December 2010 and has since expired.

• Arrest of Julio Jimenez, who was caught in a CSLB undercover sting in April 2012, and later convicted. He was ordered to serve 10 days in jail and three years’ probation. A second conviction would carry a mandatory 90-day jail sentence.

Orange

• Arrest of Kyle Raymond Kovacovsky, who gave undercover investigators a $7,500 bid to replace swimming pool equipment.

San Bernardino

• Ricardo Marquez-Martinez is to be deported for felony drug, burglary, and firearms violations.

• Suspect Juan Ayala Colunga is to be deported by ICE on felony charges including corporal abuse.

“CSLB and its partners in law enforcement are serious about enforcing our state’s consumer protection laws,” says CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “Unlicensed, illegal activity that puts homeowners at risk and puts those who follow state laws at a competitive disadvantage will not be tolerated.”

Arrest tallies from each sting location are available by clicking HERE.

Participating agencies from the two-day blitz are noted below.

Location Notices to Appear
Partner Agencies
Orange

Orange County

14 City of Orange Police Department

California Employment Development Department

Lawndale

Los Angeles County

12 Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

Department of Homeland Security / U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

San Bernardino

San Bernardino County

12 Department of Homeland Security / U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

City of San Bernardino Police Department

Chico

Butte County

6 Butte County District Attorney’s Office
Oakdale

Stanislaus County

21 Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office

Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigation

California Employment Development Department

Bakersfield

Kern County

13 Kern County District Attorney’s Office

Department of Homeland Security / U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

California Department of Insurance


CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring anyone to work in or around their home or business:

  • Look for the contractor’s state license number. California law requires it to be in all forms of advertising.
  • If the contractor doesn’t have a state license, the ad must state that fact.
  • In California, unlicensed people can’t work on jobs valued at $500 or more (combined labor and materials).
  • Don’t be misled by unlicensed contractors who give you a business or “handyman” license number.
  • Always check the license number at CSLB's website, or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com to make sure the license is in good standing, and that employees are covered by workers' compensation insurance.
  • Contractors are required to have their plastic pocket license or Home Improvement Salesperson registration card with them. Ask to see it when getting your bid.
  • Don’t pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment.
  • Ask to see a photo ID to verify the person’s identity.
  • Don't pay in cash, and don't let payments get ahead of the work.
  • Get at least three bids, check references, and get a written contract.

The California Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on CSLB’s website or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752). You also can sign up for CSLB email alerts.

CSLB licenses and regulates California’s 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2011-12, CSLB helped recover nearly $36 million in ordered restitution for consumers.