Bakersfield Tree Service Scammer Sentenced to Jail on Third Conviction
Conviction and jail time aimed at cutting down unlicensed, illegal activity
SACRAMENTO —A clear message from Kern County Superior Court was sent this week that contracting without a license is illegal and phony contractors will be punished. Upon his third conviction for contracting without a license on May 13, 2011, Candido Martinez Villarreal, 51, of Bakersfield, was sentenced on Monday (May 16, 2011) to 120 days in jail and fined $5,700 for contracting without a license and illegal advertising. Martinez Villarreal was also ordered to pay $1,100 in restitution to the consumer who contracted for his services. (A third conviction for contracting without a license carries a minimum of 90 days in jail and $5,000 in fines.) Martinez Villarreal’s prior convictions for contracting without a license were in 2003 and 2007, when he was also convicted of illegal advertising.
California law prohibits contracting for home improvement services valued at greater than $500 for labor and materials without a state contractor license. Contractors must also place their license number in all forms of advertising. Those who do not have licenses can bid to do home improvement jobs valued at less than $500, but their ads must state that they are not a licensed contractor.
"Consumers who contract for home improvement services with unlicensed individuals put themselves and their families at both financial and personal risk," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Unlicensed operators almost never carry workers’ compensation insurance, subjecting homeowners to liability if anyone is injured on their property." Recently, the Department of Industrial Relations found a San Francisco Bay Area homeowner liable for injuries to an employee of an unlicensed operator and required them to pay $150,000.
Since 2005, CSLB licensees have undergone fingerprinting and criminal background checks when applying for a new license or adding a licensing classification. State law also requires a $12,500 surety bond as a condition of licensure so that consumers can make a financial recovery if damage is done to their property or if the project is not completed to trade standards.
"CSLB is gratified that its outstanding relationship with Kern County prosecutors has led to this aggressive prosecution," added Sands. "The board and its partnering prosecutors will not tolerate activity that puts California consumers at risk and undermines the integrity of licensed, legitimate tree service providers."
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring anyone to do work on their home or property:
- 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 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 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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