Online Advertisements Lead CSLB to Unlicensed Workers in Fresno County


Eleven suspects issued notices to appear in court for illegal contracting in Clovis

SACRAMENTO – On October 16-17, 2018, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) teamed up with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office and the Clovis Police Department to conduct an undercover sting operation targeting suspected unlicensed contractors in the Clovis area.

CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) set-up shop at a single family home near the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. Investigators posed as homeowners and contacted alleged unlicensed contractors to give bids on home improvement work.

Eleven suspects came to the home and placed bids for landscaping, plumbing, tree trimming, and painting the interior and exterior of the home.

Ten suspects provided bids that ranged from nearly $1,000 for tree trimming to $7,550 for plumbing – well over the legal threshold for contracting without a license.

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

The online advertisements, which initially tipped-off SWIFT to the suspects, could lead to misdemeanor charges for nine suspects who neglected to state in their ads they were not licensed (BPC § 7027.1). Advertisements for unlicensed contractors must state that they are not a state-licensed contractor and the type of jobs advertised must be worth less than $500.

"Consumers should look for the six or seven-digit license number on the ad, or a brief statement that they are not licensed. If you don't see either, assume they're not licensed," said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. "Homeowners can even take their contractor search a step further by cross referencing someone’s name, license number, or business name on CSLB’s online license check."

Five of the suspects may also face a charge for requiring an illegally large down payment (BPC § 7159.5). Down payments for home improvement jobs in California cannot total more than 10 percent of the contract price, or $1,000, whichever is less.

One suspect was issued a third notice for violating Labor Code Section 3700.5. As a condition of licensure, contractors must carry workers' compensation for all employees. This coverage insures that if a worker is injured on the homeowner's property, the consumer is not held liable.

One suspect received a single citation for being an unregistered salesperson (BPC § 7153).

All suspects were ordered to appear in court on January 8-9, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. at the Fresno County Superior Court, 1100 Van Ness Avenue, Fresno, CA 93724 (MAP).

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

DAY 1 - OCTOBER 16, 2018
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Armando Rafael Aguilar
Fresno
C36 - Plumbing Unregistered Salesperson
Jose Ignacio Valladares Villegas
Fresno
C27 - Landscaping Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising,
No Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Carlos Tovar
Fresno
C27 - Landscaping Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Saul Gonzalez
Fresno
C27 - Landscaping Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Ever Alonso Vazquez Santoyo
Clovis
C33 - Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Marcus Rey Stagi, Jr.
Fresno
C36 - Plumbing Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising
Gilbert Estrada II
Reedley
C61/D42 – Tree Services Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

DAY 2 - OCTOBER 17, 2018
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Alfredo Melgarejo
Kerman
C61/D42 – Tree Services Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertisingt
Russel Dean Papenhausen
Fresno
C27 - Landscaping
&
C61/D42 – Tree Services
Contracting without a license
Juan Manuel Reynoso
Clovis
C33 – Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Ivan Zamora Hernandez
Los Banos
C33 – Painting and Decorating Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising,
Excessive Down Payment

CSLB conducts an average of one sting each week around the state each week to protect consumers, help level the playing field for legitimate contractors, and to curb the underground economy. Visit CSLB’s website for more tips on how to hire a licensed contractor.

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 more than $50 million in ordered restitution for consumers.

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