On February 2nd, 2016

Consumer Protection at Work: CSLB Investigators Nab Illegal Contractors

Two-day sting snares repeat offenders and wanted suspect

SAN DIEGO  –  Many homeowners are heeding the warnings to be prepared for a wet February and March and are therefore seeking help in repairing or maintaining their home's roof.   That is opening the door for illegal contractors.  Case in point:  On January 26-27, 2016, investigators with the Contractors State License Board's (CSLB)  Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) went undercover at a  single-family home in San Diego  asking for bids on  home improvement projects that included replacing a leaking garage roof, new concrete with drains to prevent flooding, wooden fence replacement, and non-storm jobs such as flooring and ornamental metal railings. Investigators used leads from Craigslist, local newspaper ads, and previous complaints to target suspected unlicensed contractors.

Did they find them?  Yes indeed, 15 of them.  Of the 15 suspected illegal contractors, Breck Pemberton, has active  warrants in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.  According to CSLB, he admited to taking nearly $10,000 for a job he never started.  Pemberton is on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Wanted Persons list for larceny but Florida will not pay for extradition of a suspect across country.

"Unlicensed contractors are not the kind of people you want in and around your home or family," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.  "Homeowners should always check the CSLB website to be sure they are hiring someone who has been checked out by the state."

In addition to the wanted subject, investigators cites three suspects who have been cited in previous CSLB stings on the very same charges of illegal contracting.

Each suspect caught in the sting  was given a misdemeanor citation for contracting without a license (after placing bids ranging from $1,200 for re-roofing to $9,000 for concrete work.  A state contractor license is required for any bid that is $500 or more for the total costs of labor and material.

One suspect who was scheduled to place a bid for a kitchen remodel noticed a tarp placed over the leaking roof and offered to do that work instead.

“We understand the sense of urgency consumers have to make sure their homes are protected from the rain and possible floods,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “But it’s very important to take the time to check the license first and find qualified licensed contractors for these types of home improvement jobs.”

(photo courtesy of CSLB)

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