SACRAMENTO – Working with unlicensed contractors could mean inviting a potentially violent person into your home. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is reporting that a suspected unlicensed contractor with a dangerous past was caught in a CSLB conducted sting in Orange County November 20-21, 2019.
Christopher M. Barela was one of 11 unlicensed contractors cited during the operation conducted in La Habra. Barela, according to La Habra Police, had an outstanding felony warrant on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. After being cited for illegal contracting and illegal advertising, he was arrested and taken to jail.
“As CSLB weeds out suspected unlicensed contractors from the pool of people homeowners hire for home improvement projects, they are throwing a veil of protection over consumers, not just financial protection, but for personal and family safety,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.
“Homeowners should use caution working with unlicensed contractors,” said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. “Many unlicensed contractors picked up in sting operations include individuals with outstanding warrants, substance abuse arrests and even registered sex offenders.”
In the La Habra operation, CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) members posed as owners of a three-bedroom residence and invited suspected unlicensed contractors to place bids on home improvement work.
Over the two-day period, unlicensed contractors showed-up to give undercover investigators bids for jobs including tree service, painting and decorating, and concrete work.
They provided bids ranging from $1,000 to $19,200 for a concrete driveway and walkway. Those bids are over the legal limit for contracting without a license. In California, it's illegal for an unlicensed person to bid for or perform any home improvement valued at $500 or more in combined labor and material costs.
Eleven suspects could now face a misdemeanor charge of contracting without a license. First-conviction penalties include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
All 11 individuals could also face an additional misdemeanor charge for their illegal advertisements. Licensed contractors must display their license number in all advertisements; unlicensed contractors must state in all ads that they do not have a license. The penalty for violating the advertising rules for unlicensed contractors is a fine of $700 to $1,000.
Consumers can check a contractor’s background information by conducting an “Instant License Check” in a matter of seconds on CSLB's website by typing in the contractor’s license number, name, or business name. The search results reveal whether or not the contractor’s license is active and/or in good standing.
Homeowners can also use CSLB's Find My Licensed Contractor feature to build and download a list of qualified licensed contractors in their area.