They call it "California Blitz," a statewide undercover sting operation conducted simultaneously at seven locations by investigators in the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and the Department of Insurance (CDI). The target? Unlicensed contractors who want you to put them to work, inside your home.
"These are not the kind of people you want working inside or at your home," said Alan Barcelona, president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). CSLEA represents DCA and CDI investigators in addition to nearly 7,000 other law enforcement, public safety and consumer protection professionals who work for the state of California. "Most of the time these people are unlicensed for a reason, some of them have criminal records, some of them are shady. Thankfully, these investigators work to find unlicensed contractors before unsuspecting consumers fall victim. It's a very important proactive approach."
When investigators set up shop last week in Artesia, Fresno, Long Beach, Oxnard, Redding, Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe, they posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvement projects. Among the unlicensed contractors they reeled in was a parolee in Artesia, a man in Fresno who had been arrested at a gaming casino the night before, a parolee in possession of drug paraphernalia in Oxnard, a sex offender in Oxnard and a man in Sacramento with a warrant issued for his arrest.
And there is more to tell. When one suspect in Artesia was told he was caught in a sting, he told investigators he left his identification in his truck, instead of getting it, he drove away, leaving behind his cell phone and paperwork.
A suspect in Fresno told an undercover investigator he would charge $500 for each sprinkler valve in a landscaping bid. In Oxnard it took investigators more than two hours to properly identify a suspect who had a long list of aliases.
"Can you imagine what a homeowner would have to go through to try to track down that guy if there were a problem with the work he had done?" asked Barcelona.
In Sacramento, investigators cuffed a suspect for possession of an illegal substance.
At the end of the two day sting, 79 people were arrested. Most were issued notices to appear in court and released. The DCA Contractors State License Board reminds consumers to always check the license of a contractor before hiring him/her for a home improvement project.