MERCED – Contractors State License Board (CSLB) investigators know the dangers that can be associated with hiring unlicensed contractors for home improvement work and that's one of the reasons why they conduct undercover stings to weed out the pool of lawbreakers bidding on projects.
In their sting, conducted in Merced on March 16-17, investigators not only cited 13 people suspected of contracting without a license, they actually sent one man, a registered sex offender, to jail. The sex offender arrived at the sting location, a house near Applegate Park Zoo, as an employee of a suspected unlicensed contractor. Investigators discovered the employee had a warrant for his arrest and a methamphetamine pipe and syringe in his possession.
"Not only do you run the risk of shoddy work, no recourse, and financial responsibility should someone without workers' comp insurance get injured on your property, who wants criminals working in or around their home?" asked Alan Barcelona, president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). "CSLB investigators set up these stings to protect consumers and to also level the playing field for those contractors who are licensed by the State of California."
During the sting, investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team made calls to suspected unlicensed contractors using leads from local newspapers and online bulletin boards. Suspects were invited to place bids on construction projects at a single-family house. Bids ranged from $500 for exterior painting to $6,500 to install stone tile in the kitchen and family room.
Of the 13 cited for contracting without a license, four face misdemeanor charges for lack of workers' compensation insurance, 12 were cited on for illegal advertising. State law requires unlicensed contractors to state in all advertising that they are not licensed. Nine were also cited for soliciting an excessive down payment . It is illegal to ask for or accept down payment for a home improvement contract larger than 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less.
Those cited are scheduled to appear in Merced County Superior Court on July 5 and 6, 2016.