CSLB Monterey County Sting Shows That Unlicensed Contractors Don't Only Go After Small Home Improvement Jobs


One of 19 cited for contracting without license gave bid for more than $30,000

SACRAMENTO – Some people argue that unlicensed contractors only go after smaller home improvement jobs. But, an undercover sting operation this week in Salinas shows that isn't necessarily the case. In this instance, hiring an unlicensed contractor could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

In the operation, conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), the Monterey County District Attorney's Office and the California Department of Insurance, one of the suspects gave a bid for almost $31,000. That's well above the $500 threshold (materials and labor) when a state license becomes necessary.

In all, 19 suspected unlicensed contractors were caught and could now face a misdemeanor criminal 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.

The sting took place in a single-family home in the Creekbridge area of Salinas, and involved investigators posing as homeowners looking for help with home improvement projects. Bids ranged from $1,000 for general contracting work to the nearly $31,000 for tile flooring.

"Just because someone is asking for tens of thousands of dollars to do a job, doesn't mean they have the skills, expertise, or insurance required to get the project done right," said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. "It's one of the reasons we always remind homeowners to get at least three bids and make sure the person they hire is licensed." Fortunately, consumers can easily check on a contractor's license before calling them out for a bid.

Consumers can check out a contractor by running an "Instant License Check" on CSLB's website. They can also get a list of licensed contractors in their area by using the "Find My Licensed Contractor" feature to search by city or ZIP code.

Seventeen suspects may face a second 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.

One of the suspects, Guisueppe Joseph Davi, was not only cited for the two contracting-related violations, he also was arrested and taken to jail with an active warrant for Driving Under the Influence.

Nine other suspects may also be charge with asking for an excessive down payment (BPC §7159.5 (a)(3)(b)). The legal limit for a down payment is 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is lower.

CSLB reminds customers to follow these tips:

  • Verify the license owner, business name and address and ask for a picture I.D.
  • Get three bids and check references
  • Get a written contract
  • Do not pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less
  • Do not let payments get ahead of the work
  • Do not pay cash

All suspects were ordered to appear on July 24 at the Monterey County Superior Court, 240 Church Street, Suite 320, Salinas CA 93901 (MAP).

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

SALINAS DAY 1 – MAY 28, 2019
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Jose Angel Fernandez
Monterey
C-33 Painting Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Nolyn Gene Latham
Prunedale
C-13 Fencing Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers' Compensation,
Excessive Down Payment
Juan Jose Herrera Diaz
Marina
C-27 Landscaping Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
No Workers' Compensation,
Excessive Down Payment
Salvatore Sardina
Seaside
C-54 Tile Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
John Michael Mattos
Santa Cruz
C-12 Grading Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Blake Reed Paxton
Monterey
C-27 Landscaping Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Giuseppe Joseph Davi
Carmel
C-33 Painting Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Vittorio Joseph Lombardo
Salinas
C-33 Painting Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Gary Martin Toet
Carmel
B-General Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Victor Hugo Betancourt Monares
Gilroy
C-36 Plumbing Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Salvador Garcia Mijangos
Seaside
C-27 Landscaping Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
SALINAS DAY 2 – MAY 29, 2019
SUSPECT NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE
LICENSE CLASSIFICATION ALLEGED VIOLATION
Leobardo Pablo Perez Bucio
Marina
C-27 Landscaping Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Juan Morales Campos
Watsonville
C-13 Fencing Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Francisco Javier Vazquez Viayra
Watsonville
C-27 Landscaping Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Terry Lee Mann
Seaside
C-13 Fencing Contracting Without a License,
Excessive Down Payment
Joseph William Love
Pacific Grove
C-13 Fencing Contracting Without a License,
Excessive Down Payment
Barrett Edward Vorhis
Seaside
C-15 Flooring Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising
Felix Pineda Mendez
Salinas
C-15 Flooring Contracting Without a License,
Illegal Advertising,
Excessive Down Payment
Joshua Lynn Grimes
Seaside
C-10 Electric 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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