Unlicensed Contractors Caught in Clovis Sting Face Consequences


Seven suspects cited for illegal contracting; CSLB investigators educate them on the law

SACRAMENTO - Those who operate without a California state-issued contractor license can potentially harm the public, tarnish the respectability of the construction industry, and take work from law-abiding licensed contractors by operating in the underground economy. CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) proactively conducts undercover sting or construction site sweep operations each week around the state to determine if contracting laws and regulations are properly followed. During an undercover operation in Fresno County, CSLB investigators cited seven people for illegal contracting.

SWIFT investigators compiled a list of suspected unlicensed contractors by searching through Craigslist, Facebook, and fliers posted around the area. They posed as owners of a single-family home near Clovis High School and invited these suspects to place bids on home improvement projects. Bids ranged from $1,000 for landscaping services to $2,500 for exterior painting. A contractor license is required for all projects that cost $500 or more for labor and materials combined.

Six individuals who placed bids above the legal threshold were given a citation for alleged unlicensed contracting (Business and Professions Code (BPC) § 7028). First-conviction penalties for contracting without a license include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. A second conviction can carry a mandatory sentence of up to 90 days in jail. Penalties are more severe with each successive violation.

All seven of the suspects received a citation for the misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising (BPC § 7027.1) for the ads that led investigators to invite them to the sting. State law requires that unlicensed contractors note in all advertising that they are not licensed, and licensed contractors must list their license number.

Additionally, one person was cited for working as an unregistered salesperson (BPC § 7153), and three men were cited for demanding excessive down payments (BPC § 7159.5). It's illegal for contractors to ask for more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less.

Each person was cited with the assistance of the California Department of Insurance, Fresno County District Attorney's Office, and Clovis Police Department. As a part of the citation process, each suspect is informed of the laws they have violated, undergoes a background check, and receives a Notice to Appear in Court. In most instances, suspects are given a packet of information to let them know, "What happens now," and material to help them understand the requirements for becoming a licensed contractor.

"Though people caught in undercover sting operations may have to face consequences for their violations, that does not prevent them from obtaining a contractor license in the future," said CSLB Registrar David R. Fogt. "In fact, CSLB representatives encourage those caught in stings to take the steps to educate themselves on contracting laws and apply for a license as a valuable investment for a professional career."

All offenders were ordered to appear in court on March 15, 2018, at 8:30 a.m. in Fresno Superior Court, 1100 Van Ness Ave., Room 402, Fresno, CA 93724.

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

DAY 1
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Felipe Daniel Gomez Lara
Madera
C-5 - Framing & Rough Carpentry Illegal advertising,
Excessive down payment,
Unregistered salesperson
Armando Cruz Lopez
Clovis
C-27- Landscaping Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising
Peter Schabert
Freson
C-33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising
David Suarez
Madera
C-27- Landscaping Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising,Excessive down payment
Gonzalo Alatorre
Madera
C-8 - Concrete Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

DAY 2
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Steven Renteria
Fresno
C-33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising,Excessive down payment
Robert Lee Knight
Fresno
D-49 - Tree Service Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

CSLB encourages consumers to always "check the license first" before hiring a contractor by visiting www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). CSLB has introduced a new website feature to help consumers start their search for a licensed contractor. The new "Find My Licensed Contractor" feature enables users to build a list of all licensed contractors, sorted by trade, in a specific geographic area.

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 2016-17, CSLB helped recover over $47 million in ordered restitution for consumers.

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