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CSLB Press Release - 10/14/13

Sex Offenders, Convicted Felons Snagged in Contractors State License Board Statewide Sting

California Blitz highlights serious risks consumers take when hiring unlicensed contractors

SACRAMENTO — Seventy-five people may face criminal charges after being caught in six simultaneous statewide undercover sting operations conducted this week by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Among those arrested during CSLB's fall California Blitz were two registered sex offenders; two individuals with several prior felonies including robbery, rape, burglary and drug possession; three who had an active arrest warrant; and several caught using contractor license numbers not belonging to them. Three of the suspects were taken to jail. One vehicle was towed.

"Homeowners should be nervous when they hear the background of some of the people we caught in these stings," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Unlicensed, illegal activity that puts homeowners at risk and legitimate contractors at a competitive disadvantage will not be tolerated."

"The Department of Insurance works closely with our state law enforcement partners to make sure that all businesses comply with the workers' compensation laws, so that no business enjoys an unfair competitive advantage by violating the law", said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Investigators from CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), along with partners from a variety of state and local law enforcement agencies, conducted stings on October 9 and 10, 2013, in Clovis (Fresno County), Ontario (San Bernardino County), Roseville (Placer County), and Seaside (Monterey County). One-day stings were conducted October 9, 2013, in South Lake Tahoe (El Dorado County) and October 10, 2013, in the area burned in the recent Silver Fire near Banning (Riverside County).

SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvements such as painting, electrical, plumbing, landscaping, flooring, drywall, fencing, concrete, and tree removal work. Of the 75 individuals arrested, 72 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.

Fifty-six suspects 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.

Ten 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.

Blitz totals may increase as some suspects are expected to provide their bids to undercover investigators via email or fax at a later date. A majority of those caught this week were identified through illegal ads posted on craigslist.org.

STING NOTES

Seaside (October 9-10)

. Arrest of suspect Ronald Keith Woodruff, a convicted sex offender previously cited by CSLB for unlicensed activity

. Arrest of suspect David Balladres, who had an arrest warrant for a parole violation and was taken to jail

. Arrest of suspect Ephraim Galindo, whose license (#558356) was revoked in 1997

Banning/Poppet Flats (Silver Fire Burn Area, October 10)

. Arrest of suspect who is licensed in Arizona and posted his business card on a community bulletin board

. Arrest of a suspect who has an open complaint against him with CSLB

Clovis (October 9-10)

. Arrest of suspect Raymond Gabriel Vera, Jr. and an employee for drug possession; both were taken to jail

. Arrest of suspect David Jose Torres, a registered sex offender

. Arrest of suspect Noe Arjona Fernandez who previously had been convicted of robbery, rape, burglar, and injury to a child

. Arrest of suspect Matthew Michael Winter, whose license (#802274) expired in 2007; he was taken to jail on a DUI arrest warrant

Ontario (October 9-10)

. Arrest of suspect Manuel Cardenas Castro, caught contracting without a license in a CSLB sweep in 1997

. Arrest of two suspects (Omar Flores, Jose Garifias Espinoza) previously cited by CSLB for contracting without a license. Neither has paid his civil penalty.

Roseville (October 9-10)

. Arrest of suspect with $7,500 arrest warrant for driving under the influence. He also was driving with a suspended driver's license.

South Lake Tahoe (October 9)

. Arrest of suspect who recently attended an outreach event about proper contracting and CSLB sting operations

Arrest tallies from each sting location are available by contacting CSLB's Public Affairs Office.



Location Notices to Appear
Partner Agencies
Seaside

Monterey County

18 Monterey County District Attorney's Office
Clovis

Fresno County

15 Fresno County District Attorney's Office

Fresno County Sheriff's Department

Clovis Police Department

Banning

Riverside County

5 Riverside County District Attorney's Office

California Department of Insurance, Inland Empire Premium Fraud Task Force

Ontario

San Bernardino County

16 San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office

California Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigation

South Lake Tahoe

El Dorado County

8 El Dorado County District Attorney's Office

California Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigation

Roseville

Placer County

13 Sacramento County District Attorney's Office

Department of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigation

CSLB encourages consumers to always "Check the License First" by visiting www.cslb.ca.gov or calling CSLB's toll-free automated line 800.321.CSLB (2757). Also, visit CSLB's website for tips about how to hire a contractor and to sign up for CSLB email alerts.

The California Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates about 300,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2012-13, CSLB helped recover nearly $44 million in ordered restitution for consumers.