CSLB Cites SoCal Tree Trimmers for Illegal Bidding; One Suspect Arrested for Being "Potential Threat" to Residents


25 suspects cited for illegally bidding on tree removal, pavers, artificial turf, and pool equipment installation projects

SACRAMENTO – Unlicensed, unskilled, and potentially dangerous! The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) cited 25 suspects for contracting illegally in San Diego County in an undercover sting. The sting targeted tree trimmers and removers as it is a highly skilled trade that could result in serious injury or property damage for consumers and could be potentially fatal for those who are not properly licensed. Among the group cited was suspect Miguel Cruz Ruiz, who gave a bid for tree removal while under the influence and was found to have several outstanding warrants for his arrest. CSLB investigators don’t need more reasons than this to warn consumers to always "check a license first" before having someone work on their property.

On March 20-21, CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) partnered with the San Diego District Attorney’s office and the San Diego Police Department and went undercover as homeowners to invite alleged unlicensed contractors to bid on outdoor home improvement projects at a home in Rancho Penasquitos. Investigators contacted suspected unlicensed contractors based on their online and business card advertisements, and ads printed on the sides of trucks.

Of the suspects who were contacted, 25 unlicensed workers came to place bids. More than two thirds of the group placed bids between $2,300 and $5,000 for tree removal and stump grinding. Other bids included $15,000 to install artificial turf, nearly $9,000 to replace swimming pool equipment, and almost $13,000 for installing pavers. Twenty-four suspects were found to be violating state contracting law by placing bids well over the legal threshold for contracting without a license.

In California, it's illegal for an unlicensed person to perform any contracting work on a project valued at $500 or more in combined labor and material costs. As a result, the suspects could now face a misdemeanor charge of contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) §7028(a)). First-conviction penalties include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

Suspect Ruiz placed a bid for $5,000 to remove six large trees from the property – a dangerous task that requires a contractor license. San Diego Police officers began a routine background check at the sting and found that Ruiz had multiple warrants for his arrest, including failing to appear in court for a DUI. It was also clear to the officers that Ruiz was under the influence of multiple substances and, therefore, posed a potential threat to the residents of Rancho Penasquitos. Ruiz was issued a notice to appear in court for acting in the capacity of a contractor without a license and the San Diego Police officers escorted him to jail.

“In addition to passing trade and law and business exams, contractors must also carry the proper liability insurance to protect their workers and the property owner should there be any damages or injuries suffered while performing the work," said Dave Fogt, CSLB Registrar. "Also, it's our job to not only protect consumers from potentially getting ripped off, but to try and ensure their safety as they let strangers into their homes." He continued, "consumers can find a legitimate contractor by using CSLB's free online tools like Find My Licensed Contractor."

Twenty-two of the suspects could face an additional misdemeanor charge for illegal advertising. Licensed contractors must display their license number in all advertisements and unlicensed contractors must state in all ads that they do not have a license (BPC §7027.1). The penalty for violating the advertising rules for unlicensed contractors is a fine of $700 to $1,000.

Additionally, one of the suspects was cited for working as an unregistered salesperson for a licensed contractor (BPC § 7153). Unlicensed workers may not place bids on behalf of licensed workers nor act in the capacity of a contractor under another person's license.

All suspects were ordered to appear in court at 8:00 a.m. on June 5-6, 2019 at the San Diego County Superior Court – Central Courthouse, 1100 Union Street, San Diego, CA 92101 – Department 250.

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

SAN DIEGO DAY 1 – MARCH 20, 2019
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Gilberto Gonzalez Bibiano
Escondido
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Ovidio Vargas Castillo
San Diego
C-61/D-6 Concrete-Related Services Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Ramon Luna Hernandez
San Marcos
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Mario Juan Santiago
Escondido
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Gilberto Zepeda
Escondido
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Diego Birkhan Fernandes
San Diego
C-61/D-35 Pool & Spa Maintenance Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Omar Valdez
San Diego
C-61/D-12 Synthetic Products Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Esteban Alexis Munoz, Jr.
Lakeside
C-61/D-35 Pool & Spa Maintenance Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Adan Rodriguez Tovar
Fallbrook
C-61/D-6 Concrete-Related Services Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Cesar Eduardo Palacios
Temecula
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Miguel Cruz Ruiz
San Marcos
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License
James Dean Baumbach
Encinitas
C-61/D-12 Synthetic Products Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising

SAN DIEGO DAY 2 – MARCH 21, 2019
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Sipriano Nava-Garcia
Escondido
C-61/D-6 Concrete-Related Services Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Rodulfo C. Anguiano
Chula Vista
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Onorio Marvin Ramirez Gregorio
Cardiff
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License
Tomas Gonzales
Valley Center
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Gaspar Andres Juan
Escondido
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Eduardo Alvarado Mateo
Escondido
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Aaron Ryan Wicht
San Diego
C-61/D-35 Pool & Spa Maintenance Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Jason Paul Bowman
Santee
C-61/D-35 Pool & Spa Maintenance Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Scott Arthur Davis
Santee
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Unregistered Salesperson
Francisco Gaspar Francisco
San Marcos
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Chris McIntosh
San Diego
C-61/D-35 Pool & Spa Maintenance Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
David Carrillo Carrillo
Encinitas
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Gordon Paul Davis
Santee
C-61/D-49 Tree Service Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising

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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