SACRAMENTO – One hundred suspected unlicensed contractors may face criminal charges after the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) conducted six undercover stings and 14 sweeps of active construction sites around California June 7-22, 2017. The operation, which took place in 11 counties, was part of a nationwide enforcement effort to warn consumers about the risks of hiring unlicensed contractors.
“It is important that consumers check with CSLB website to verify the contractor they are hiring is licensed with the state, it’s for their personal and financial protection,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Unlicensed contractors may come in with a cheaper bid, but the consumer often ends up paying more in the long run and has no recourse. CSLB investigators work to identify and cite unlicensed contractors in an effort to protect consumers and also those contractors abiding by the law.”
In the California stings, investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) partnered with several local law enforcement agencies to conduct undercover stings at homes in:
- Bakersfield (Kern County),
- Long Beach (Los Angeles County),
- Monterey (Monterey County),
- Orange (Orange County),
- Santee (San Diego County),
- Shasta Lake (Shasta County).
Sweep operations were conducted at active construction sites in the following counties:
- Los Angeles,
- San Bernardino,
- San Diego,
- San Mateo,
- Santa Clara,
At the stings, SWIFT investigators called suspected unlicensed operators for home improvement bids that included electrical, plumbing, painting, landscaping, flooring, door installation, fencing, masonry, tile, roofing, concrete, and tree trimming or removal.
Of the 100 individuals who received a “Notice to Appear” in court:
- 96 may face a misdemeanor criminal charge of contracting without a license. The penalty for a first conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
- 83 of the suspects also may be charged with a misdemeanor count of illegal advertising. California law requires licensed 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.
- Seven others may be charged with requesting an excessive down payment. 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.
- 14 individuals did not have workers’ compensation insurance for their workers.
- 31 of the phony contractors also were issued Stop Orders. CSLB investigators can halt jobsite activity when any person, with or without a contractor license, does not have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees. Failure to comply with a Stop Order can result in misdemeanor charges and penalties, including 60 days in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines.