State Cracks Down on Unlicensed Contractors

Some 76 people, including 29 in Los Angeles and Riverside counties, face charges after being caught in 12 undercover sting operations in seven cities last week, the Contractors State License Board said Monday.

State and local authorities busted the bogus contractors at homes in LA, Riverside, San Diego, Fresno, Solano, Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

Among those arrested were 12 people either caught in previous stings, or have had consumer complaints lodged against them, officials said in a news release.

"We can't stress enough the importance of making sure anyone you hire to work near your home or family has a state license," said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. "It only takes a few moments to go to the CSLB website and find a lot of information about them."

Two people were taken to jail. One, caught in Moreno Valley, had an arrest warrant for perjury and failure to appear in an unrelated case. A suspect in San Diego had an arrest warrant and was also caught while in possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. That suspect gave an undercover investigator a $10,000 bid to repair a deck.

A suspect caught in the Los Angeles sting, was tipped to CSLB by a consumer after that unlicensed contractor allegedly abandoned a $330,000 job. That suspect bid $74,500 to replace a long concrete driveway.

In California, all home improvement jobs valued at $500 or more in labor and materials must be done by a company with a state-issued contractor's license. Jobs cannot be cut into pieces or charged by the hour in an effort to bypass the law.

"Too many times unsuspecting victims write checks write large amounts of money," said Mike Hestrin, Riverside County District Attorney.

Moreno Valley resident Mary Whisner was conned out of $25,000 by a man who used a stolen license when she hired him to do work on her home renovation.

"I did let my family down," she said. Whisner is left with all of the needed work on the home still to be done, but without the money.

"It's embarrassing," she said.

In the undercover operation, investigators posed as homeowners and called suspected unlicensed operators for home improvement bids that included a bathroom demo and remodel, painting, landscaping, flooring, roofing, fencing, deck repair, tree removal, masonry, tile, and concrete work.

"In 74 of the 76 cases they were contracting without a license," said Rick Lopes, chief of public affairs for CSLB. "A couple of cases we had unregistered salespeople."

Suspects were targeted because of tips or previous complaints, advertisements posted in online bulletin boards including Craigslist, Angie's List, and the Yellow Pages; as well as from ads in local newspapers; community pamphlets that included, Smart Saver; store bulletin boards, business cards, and ads on sides of vehicles. The suspects caught during this operation provided bids totaling more than $360,000.

How to identify unlicensed contractors.

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