CSLB Catches Felons, Other Known Criminals in Simultaneous Statewide Undercover Sting Operations
Spring California Blitz highlights serious risks consumers take when hiring unlicensed contractors
SACRAMENTO – More than seven dozen people may face criminal charges after being caught by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in simultaneous undercover sting operations conducted March 10 and 11, 2015, in seven cities throughout California.
“Several of the suspects we targeted turned out to be repeat offenders and individuals with a criminal history and drug violations,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi A. Christenson. “If you knew their backgrounds, you’d never allow them near your home or family.”
Among those caught during CSLB’s spring California Blitz were a dozen repeat offenders, one suspect with an active arrest warrant, four suspects on probation, and one former CSLB licensee. Suspects who turned out to have serious criminal backgrounds were targeted because of ads they posted on craigslist.org, local fliers, business cards, and complaints to CSLB and local government agencies.
Investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) partnered with a variety of local law enforcement agencies to conduct the operations at homes in Bakersfield (Kern County), Gardena (Los Angeles County), Ione (Amador County), Madera (Madera County), Rancho Mirage (Riverside County), San Diego (San Diego County), and Tracy (San Joaquin County).
SWIFT investigators called suspected unlicensed operators for home improvement bids that included painting, landscaping, sprinklers, pool maintenance, cabinetry, electrical, wrought iron, flooring, fencing, masonry, tile, plumbing, concrete, and tree removal work.
All 85 individuals arrested may face misdemeanor charges for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028). The penalty for a first conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Seventy-seven 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.
Three 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.
Six 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.
“One of the suspects was brazenly using a contractor license number that belongs to a legitimate contractor,” added Christenson. “Always be sure to check your contractor’s license number on the CSLB website and ask the contractor for photo identification to verify the person’s identity.”
Blitz totals may increase as some suspects are expected to provide their bids at a later date to undercover investigators via text, email or fax.
Contact CSLB for suspect lists from the various sting locations.
- One illegal operator also was cited for methamphetamine and paraphernalia possession after police searched his car and allegedly turned up the drug and a smoking pipe; in addition, an employee he brought was on parole.
- A different suspect had been cited twice previously by CSLB for illegal contracting.
Gardena (Los Angeles County)
- Jose Carlos Leon, of South Gate, was booked on a six-count, $120,000 felony warrant in connection with three illegal contracting incidents in the Los Angeles area. Leon was arrested when he arrived at the house to give a bid. He was transported without incident to Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail. Leon is being charged by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office with three counts of identity theft and three counts of misrepresenting a contractor license, all felonies, stemming from consumer complaints against him.
- A different suspect had been cited twice previously at CSLB stings, and is on probation for one of the offenses.
Ione (Amador County)
- This sting operation identified a contractor whose license was revoked by CSLB in 2011; he gave a $2,500 painting bid.
Madera (Madera County)
- Three of the suspects who gave bids during the operation’s first day had previous brushes with the law: one man was serving a probation term for a drug offense; another had been arrested six times for driving under the influence charges; and a third had prior violations for grand theft auto, possession of a stolen vehicle, and driving under the influence.
Rancho Mirage (Riverside County)
- A licensed contractor from a nearby city provided CSLB with information that led to the arrest of a suspected illegal contractor.
San Diego (San Diego County)
- Two suspects were previously cited by CSLB for illegal contracting charges.
- Another suspect decided to turn informer after he was cited, offering to turn in other unlicensed operators in exchange for a lighter sentence.
(San Joaquin County)
- One suspect, after being cited, gave investigators the name of an alleged illegal contractor whom he claimed did not pay him for work, giving CSLB the opportunity to also pursue another suspect. .
- A different suspect caught on the sting’s first day had been earlier cited for illegal contracting by CSLB, convicted, and sentenced to a five-year probation term.
Partnering agencies are noted below:
|Location||Notices to Appear||Partner Agencies|
|Kern County District Attorney's Office
Kern County Sheriff's Department
Los Angeles County
|17||Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office
California Department of Insurance
|Amador County District Attorney’s Office
Ione Police Department
|13||Madera County District Attorney’s Office
California Highway Patrol
Madera Police Department
|7||Riverside County District Attorney’s Office
Rancho Mirage Police Department
San Diego County
|15||San Diego District Attorney’s Office
; California Highway Patrol
San Joaquin County
|17||San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office|
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 (2752). Also, visit CSLB’s website for tips about how to hire a contractor and to sign up for CSLB email alerts.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates about 290,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2013-14, CSLB helped recover nearly $51 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
Press Release Media
Video taken during CSLB March 2015 BlitzFlikr Feed: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cslb
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