CSLB Goes Undercover to Sting 11 in Woodland
Repeat offender among those caught contracting without a license in Yolo County
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB), in partnership with the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and Department of Insurance, caught 11 unlicensed operators in an undercover sting in Woodland on June 8, 2011.
Members of CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners and invited suspected phony contractors to a vacant home to bid on home improvement projects, including landscaping, fencing, and painting. If the bid totaled more than $500 in labor and materials and the suspect was not state-licensed, they were given a notice to appear (NTA) in court to face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license. Some also face misdemeanor charges of illegal advertising. State law requires contractors to put their license numbers in all advertisements. Those who are not licensed may advertise to perform jobs valued at least than $500, but their ads must state that they are not licensed.
Robert John Wachs, who received an NTA for contracting without a license after he bid on a painting project, is no stranger to CSLB stings. Wachs, 57, of Knights Landing, has a pending court case in October 2011, on charges of contracting without a license after he was caught during the CSLB Fall Blitz in September 2009.
"Consumers need to be aware of the risks they take when working with the unlicensed," said Registrar Steve Sands. "This sting operation is a prime example of how violations of state consumer protection laws will not be tolerated by CSLB and its partnering agencies."
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring somebody to work on their home:
- Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID to verify their identity.
- Always check the license number on CSLB’s website at www.cslb.ca.gov or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com to make sure the license is in good standing.
- Don’t pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special bonds to protect consumers. These exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website.
- 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 following suspects are scheduled for arraignment in Santa Cruz County Superior Court on July 12, 2011:
|SUSPECT NAME & CITY||AGE||WORK
|Richard Charles Bauer
|70||Landscaping||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Brian David Zenger
|29||Fencing||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Lester Vernell Green
|57||Ceramic and Mosaic Tile||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Robert John Wachs
|57||Painting||Contracting without a license, on probation for past conviction for contracting without a license.|
|Abel Ortiz Michel
|46||Fencing||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Antonio Perez Reyes
|52||Painting||Contracting without a license|
|Antonio Romero Mendoza
|40||Flooring||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Carlos Gonzalez, Jr.
|51||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Jesse Lee Rodriguez
|36||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|30||Painting||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
|Mario Alberto Gonzalez-Estrada
|34||General Building||Contracting without a license, illegal advertising|
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on the CSLB website or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). You can also sign up for CSLB email alerts at www.cslb.ca.gov. CSLB licenses and regulates California's more than 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2009-10, CSLB helped recover nearly $42 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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