CSLB Hopes Getting Caught in Merced Undercover Sting Will Lead Suspect to Different Career

Alleged unlicensed contractor tried to get CSLB license twice, but he and partner failed exams 40 times

SACRAMENTO – One of the primary goals of a Contractors State License Board (CSLB) undercover sting is to get unlicensed contractors to apply for and get a state contractor’s license. The process for getting licensed includes taking and passing two exams. One exam is in California business law; the other in the specific trade of the license.

But, for one of the suspects caught in a two-day sting operation in Merced earlier this month, it finally may be time to find a new career.

That suspect was part of companies that applied for contractor’s licenses in 2001 and 2004. The suspect, or his business partner took and failed each exam a total of 20 times.

On February 6-7, CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT), in partnership with the Merced County District Attorney’s Office, posed as homeowners and contacted alleged unlicensed contractors from their online ads and business cards posted at local home improvement stores. The workers were invited to a single-family home near Merced College to bid on home improvement projects.

A total of seven individuals gave undercover investigators bids for work including installing a wrought iron fence, drywall installation, and installing granite counters in the kitchen and bathroom. Bids ranged from $1,200 to $3,500 well over the legal threshold for when a contractor’s license is needed.

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 seven suspects could now face a misdemeanor charge of contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) §7028(b)). First-conviction penalties include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. Penalties are more severe with each successive violation. A second conviction carries a mandatory sentence of 90 days in jail.

The advertisements, which initially tipped SWIFT off to the suspects, could lead to an additional misdemeanor charge for six suspects who neglected to state in their ads they were not licensed (BPC §7027.1). Advertisements for unlicensed contractors must note that they are not a state-licensed contractor.

"Licensed or unlicensed, advertising rules apply to both sides," said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. "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." Consumers should then look up the license number on CSLB's website to verify its accuracy, and to get other important license, bond, and insurance information.

In addition, three of the bidders required an excessive down payment and were written-up for that alleged violation. It is illegal for contractors to ask for more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less (BPC §7159.5 (a)(3)(b)).

All suspects were ordered to appear in court at the Merced County Superior Court, 2260 N Street, Merced, CA, 95340 on April 24 –25, 2019, at 8:00 am.

Prospective licensees were also encouraged to attend one of CSLB’s licensing workshops to help them prepare for applying for a contractor license.

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

Paulo Archundria Maya
C-27 Landscaping Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Downpayment
Allen Ousip
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Downpayment
car Torres-Barajas
C-33 Painting and Decorating Contractor
C-9 Drywall Contractor
Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Downpayment

Gentle Ben Younan
C-54 Ceramic and Mosaic Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Mario Palominos Aceveda
D-28 Doors, Gates and Activating Devices Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Rigoberto Hurtado Orozco
C-8 Concrete Contractor Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Dionisio Chavez Lopez
Redwood City
C-23 Ornamental Metal Contractor Contracting Without a License

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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