CLOVIS – On October 16-17, 2018, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) teamed with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office and the Clovis Police Department to conduct an undercover sting operation targeting suspected unlicensed contractors in the Clovis area.
CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) set-up shop at a single-family home near the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. Investigators posed as homeowners and contacted alleged unlicensed contractors to give bids on home improvement work.
“These stings are conducted year-round throughout California, and despite widespread media attention about their existence, unlicensed contractors continue to show up,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Investigators are protecting the public and protecting licensed contractors who often are outbid on projects by those who skirt the law.”
Eleven suspects arrived at the home and placed bids for landscaping, plumbing, tree trimming, and painting the interior and exterior of the home.
Ten suspects provided bids that ranged from nearly $1,000 for tree trimming to $7,550 for plumbing – well over the legal threshold for contracting without a license. In California, a contractor license is required for construction projects valued over $500 for labor and materials combined. The penalty for a first-conviction includes up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
The online advertisements, which initially tipped-off SWIFT to the suspects, could lead to misdemeanor charges for nine suspects who neglected to state in their ads they were not licensed. Advertisements for unlicensed contractors must state that they are not a state-licensed contractor and the type of jobs advertised must be worth less than $500.
Five of the suspects may also face a charge for requiring an illegally large down payment. Down payments for home improvement jobs in California cannot total more than 10 percent of the contract price, or $1,000, whichever is less.