SACRAMENTO - How far will unlicensed contractors go to get unsuspecting consumers to hire them for home improvement projects? Just ask Contractors State License Board (CSLB) investigators who conduct undercover sting operations in which they pose as homeowners and seek bids on projects such as concrete repair, fencing, flooring and hot water tank replacement.
"CSLB investigators see and hear it all, hopefully so consumers don't have to," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. "These unlicensed contractors are trying to make a buck but they aren't willing to go through the CSLB background checks and other requirements to demonstrate they know what they're doing and have the proper insurance in place, etc."
On April 26-27, 2016, CSLB investigators posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvement projects in Sacramento and in El Cajon. During the two day sting in Sacramento, they cited 8 individuals suspected of bidding on projects that required a licensed contractor due to the cost of labor and materials quoted. Unlicensed contractors are prohibited by law on bidding on projects that total more than $500 dollars (material and labor combined).
During the Sacramento sting, investigators cited Ryan Murray, a man suspected of tampering with a licensed contractor's website by replacing the licensed contractor's number with his own and misrepresenting himself as the licensee. That act may result in a felony charge that carries a fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to one year in state prison or county jail.
Additionally, investigators in Sacramento encountered suspect Reuben Joseph Mohammad, who may also face a felony charge for fraudulently using his wife's contractor license number. Mohammad is ineligible to apply for a contractor license of his own because he is a registered sex offender.
In San Diego, investigators cited 19 people suspected of contracting without a license, some of whom drove professional-looking work vehicles with a company logo and appeared in matching uniforms.
"Always check the CSLB website to be sure you are hiring a licensed contractor, and then ask that contractor to show you his state issued pocket card with his/her name and license number on it, " said Barcelona. "Go one step further and ask to see a photo ID, such as a driver license to be sure you are dealing with the correct individual and not some unscrupulous, unlicensed contractor who has stolen a licensed contractor's information or identity."