RIVCO: Contractor sting yields arrest in Moreno Valley, 76 facing criminal charges

Contractor's Sting
A recent sting revealed over 70 unlicensed contractors operating in Southern California.

Seventy-six people, including 29 in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, may face criminal charges after being caught in 12 undercover sting operations conducted in seven cities this past week by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB).

Investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) partnered with several local law enforcement agencies on October 13-15, 2015 to conduct the operations at homes in Moreno Valley (Riverside County), Los Angeles(Los Angeles County), San Diego (San Diego County), Fresno (Fresno County), Rio Vista (Solano County), Ukiah(Mendocino County), and Rohnert Park (Sonoma County).

Arrest of unlicensed contractor
Arrest of one unlicensed contractor.

Among those arrested during the operation were one dozen suspects who were either caught in previous stings, or have had consumer complaints filed with CSLB against them.

Two suspects were taken directly to jail. One, caught in the Moreno Valley sting, had an arrest warrant for perjury and failure to appear in an unrelated case; a suspect at the San Diego sting had an arrest warrant and was also caught while in possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. That suspect gave an undercover investigator a $10,000 bid to repair a deck.

A suspect caught in the Los Angeles sting, was tipped to CSLB by a consumer after that unlicensed contractor allegedly abandoned a $330,000 job. That suspect bid $74,500 to replace a long concrete driveway.


In California, all home improvement jobs valued at $500 or more in labor and materials must be done by a company with a state-issued contractor’s license. Jobs cannot be cut into pieces or charged by the hour in an effort to bypass the law.

unlicensed contractor arrest
Arrest of unlicensed contractor

In the undercover operation, SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners and called suspected unlicensed operators for home improvement bids that included a bathroom demo and remodel, painting, landscaping, flooring, roofing, fencing, deck repair, tree removal, masonry, tile, and concrete work.

Suspects were targeted because of tips or previous complaints, advertisements posted in online bulletin boards including Craigslist, Angie’s List, and the Yellow Pages; as well as from ads in local newspapers; community pamphlets that included, Smart Saver; store bulletin boards, business cards, and ads on sides of vehicles.

The suspects caught during this operation provided bids totaling more than $360,000.

“We can’t stress enough the importance of making sure anyone you hire to work near your home or family has a state license,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “It only takes a few moments to go to the CSLB website and find a lot of information about them.”

Suspects caught received a Notice to Appear (NTA) in Superior Court to face misdemeanor charges. The investigative cases will be turned over to local prosecutors who will determine what charges will be filed.

Seventy-four caught may face misdemeanor charges for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) section 7028. The penalty for a first conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Two suspects were given a NTA for being an unregistered salesperson (BPC §7153).

Moreno Valley Arrest
Moreno Valley arrest of unlicensed contractor, with warrants.

Fifty-six suspects also may be charged with illegal advertising (BPC §7027.1). California law requires contractors to place their CSLB license number in all print, broadcast, and online advertisements. Those without a license can advertise to perform jobs valued at less than $500, but the ad must state that they are not a licensed contractor. The penalty is a fine of $700 to $1,000.

Two others may be charged with requesting an excessive down payment (BPC §7159.5). In California, a home improvement project down payment cannot exceed 10 percent of the contract total or $1,000, whichever is less. This misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine.

“This warning is especially important because many consumers are starting to hire contractors to make preparations for expected heavy rains this winter, from an el niño weather pattern,” added Christenson.

Blitz totals may increase as some suspects are expected to provide their bids to undercover investigators at a later date.

STING NOTES

Contact CSLB’s Public Affairs Office for suspect lists from the specific sting locations.

Fresno (Fresno County)

•           Bids ranged from $1,100 to $5,680

•           After receiving NTA, suspect may have tipped off two other men arriving at sting house as he was leaving

Los Angeles (Los Angeles County)

•           Bids ranged from $750 to $74,500

•           Two suspects caught in previous CSLB sting operations (2009 & 2014)

•           One lead provided by consumer allegedly victimized by unlicensed contractor who abandoned $330,000 job

Moreno Valley (Riverside County)

•           Bids ranged from $750 to $6,200

•           One suspect taken to jail with $75,000 arrest warrant for perjury and failure to appear

•           One suspect caught in previous CSLB sting operation (2012)

•           One suspect previously cited by CSLB – Partially paid fine

Rio Vista (Solano County)

           Bids ranged from $1,650 to $23,000

Rohnert Park (Sonoma County)

•           Bids ranged from $1,500 to $9,400

•           One suspect caught had a contractor’s license that expired in 2012

San Diego (San Diego County)

•           Bids ranged from $1,000 to $10,000

•           One suspect taken to jail for drug possession, driving with a suspended license, and a $5,000 arrest warrant

•           One suspect said he “partnered” with licensed contractor. That licensee may receive citation for aiding and abetting unlicensed activity

Ukiah (Mendocino County)

•           Bids ranged from $2,000 to $4,500

•           One suspect caught in previous CSLB sting operation (1997)

 

Partnering agencies are noted below.

Location

Notices to Appear

Partner Agencies

Fresno
Fresno County

9

-Fresno County District Attorney’s Office
-California Highway Patrol

Los Angeles
Los Angeles County

14

-Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office
-Dept. of Consumer Affairs Division of Investigation

Moreno Valley
Riverside County

15

-Riverside County District Attorney’s Office

Rio Vista
Solano County

10

-Solano County District Attorney’s Office

Rohnert Park
Sonoma County
7 -Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office

San Diego
San Diego County

16

-San Diego County District Attorney’s Office
-California Highway Patrol

Ukiah
Mendocino County
5 -Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office

One Response to "RIVCO: Contractor sting yields arrest in Moreno Valley, 76 facing criminal charges"

  1. Rory   October 20, 2015 at 9:59 am

    I like the fact that CSLB is enforcing the license law. However they need to create an additional law that punishes the people who knowingly hire unlicensed contractors. The current law helps, but punishes the people trying to eat and not the people trying to feed them a less than sufficient meal. For lack of a better analogy: it is very similar to not punishing the John in a sex for hire case.

    I feel that I see more unlicensed contractors doing work for property owners than licensed contractors. Safety and quality are thrown to the wind. The chance to get work done for less than value is beyond their ability to resist doing something illegal to try to save a few dollars.

    If you have a better solution I’m listening?

    Reply

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