CSLB Catches Contractor with Expired Licenses in Santa Cruz County


To avoid financial risks, property owners must check “pocket license” and ID before hiring a contractor

SACRAMENTO – Last week, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) cited 11 people for contracting illegally in Aptos. Among the suspects was David Paul Bell, someone with two expired plumbing licenses, from 2002 and 2005. Bell was issued a notice to appear in court for allegedly violating three laws, including using a fraudulent license number, which could lead to felony charges.

On November 27-28, 2018, CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) partnered with the California Department of Insurance (CDI) and the Santa Cruz County District Attorneys’ Office to catch unlicensed workers violating state contracting laws.

SWIFT developed a list of potential suspects by searching social media sites, online job postings, and signs on the sides of trucks. Once investigators identified their suspects, they went undercover as homeowners and invited the alleged unlicensed contractors to a single-family home near the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park to come and bid on the services advertised by the suspects.

Eleven individuals, including Bell, came to bid on jobs like painting the exterior of the house, general building, plumbing, building a fence, and laying concrete. Bell placed the highest bid of $15,000 for a bathroom remodel, while the lowest was for $4,000 to build a fence – well over the legal threshold for contracting without a license.

In California, a contractor license is required for construction projects valued over $500 for labor and materials combined. All suspects could be charged with a misdemeanor count of contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) Section (§) 7028). The penalty for a first-conviction includes up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

“It’s important that homeowners take the extra step of asking contractors for their photo ID and to see their ‘pocket license’ to compare the names,” said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. “If the contractors’ license name and ID don’t match-up, then it’s likely they are not a legitimate contractor and don’t carry the proper insurance to cover any potential injuries or property damages,” he continued.

Consumers can also use CSLB’s free, online "Find My Licensed Contractor" feature to download and/or print a list of qualified licensed contractors in their area. CSLB also encourages consumers who are looking to hire a contractor to use our online “Check a License” feature to make certain the person is licensed and in good standing.

Because Bell listed his expired license numbers in his advertisements, he may have to answer to felony charges, which could include a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a one-year jail sentence (BPC §7027.3).

All suspects, including Bell, could face an additional misdemeanor charge for illegal advertising (BPC § 7027.1). Unlicensed contractors can only advertise if the ad states that they are not a state-licensed contractor. Licensed contractors must include their license number in all advertisements.

In addition to these violations, eight people were cited for requiring an excessive down payment (BPC § 7159.5). It's illegal for contractors to ask for more than 10 percent down or $1,000 for home improvement projects, whichever is less.

Three individuals were also cited for not carrying a workers’ compensation insurance policy to cover those working for them (Labor Code section 3700.5). One of these cases resulted in a "stop order" (a legal demand to cease all employee labor at a job site), as the unlicensed individual brought his hired help with him to the home.

All suspects were ordered to appear in court on Wednesday, January 23, 2019, at 8:00 a.m. at the Santa Cruz Superior Court, 701 Ocean Street, Room 120, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.

NOTE: All suspects are presumed innocent until their case is resolved.

APTOS DAY 1 – NOVEMBER 27, 2018
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Adrian Sanchez Espitia
Salinas
C-8 Concrete Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers’ Compensation
David Paul Bell
B-General Building Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Using Fraudulent License Number
Sage Ray Strand-Baker
Aptos
C-13 Fencing Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Marco Antonio Santoyo Morales
Freedom
B-General Building Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Keith E. Dalton
Freedom
B-General Building Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment

APTOS DAY 2 – NOVEMBER 28, 2018
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Andrew Thomas Horti
Scotts Valley
C-27 Landscaping Contractor
C-13 Fencing Contractor
Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Jose Alberto Hernandez
Redwood City
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers’ Compensation,
Excessive Down Payment
Michael Christopher Malloy
Santa Cruz
B-General Building Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers’ Compensation,
Excessive Down Payment
Abraham Oliva
Aptos
C-36 Plumbing Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Morgan Tonathia Sandoval
Santa Cruz
C-27 Landscaping Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Manuel Sarabia Sandoval
Santa Cruz
C-27 Landscaping Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates almost 290,000 contractors in California and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2017-18, CSLB helped recover over $50 million in ordered restitution for consumers.

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