Undercover investigators in California arrested 110 alleged unlicensed contractors, including 29 who gave bids for painting services, in eight sting operations conducted throughout the state, officials said.
The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) executed the two-day, statewide sting, known as the annual spring “California Blitz” on March 14 and 15. Cities targeted included Chico, Clovis, Grover Beach, Lawndale, Murrieta, Redwood City, Visalia, and Porterville.
CSLB investigators partnered with local law-enforcement agencies to pose as “homeowners” inviting the suspected unlicensed contractors to bid on various construction jobs, including painting, landscaping, roofing and concrete work. The CSLB posted a video of the series of stings here.
Suspected unlicensed contractors caught in the stings included two convicted sex offenders, four with active arrest warrants and numerous repeat offenders, CSLB said.
“Homeowners need to be aware of the risk they take when they hire someone who is not licensed to do work in their home,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “What seems like a good deal almost always ends up costing a lot more. Many of these phony contractors are people you really don’t want inside your house or around your family.”
The suspects arrested will face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license and, in many cases, illegal advertising, soliciting excessive down payments, and failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance, the board said.
Under California law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more for labor and materials must be licensed by CSLB. In addition, since 2005, those who apply for a new license or to change their license are required to submit fingerprints for a criminal background check, CSLB said.
“There’s a lot of things that come into play when it comes to a sting operation,” said Rick Lopes, a spokesperson from the CSLB.
Lopes told Durability + Design that the type of contracting trades that a sting net might snare can vary, depending on the particular sting house used during an operation.
Some of the sting houses lend themselves to getting bids for certain projects, such as painting, he said. In addition, the type of “targets” or contractors the investigators are trying to nab also figures into the process.
“We have to get bids on the type of work they do, if they’re a landscaper, we can’t ask them to give us a bid on painting,” he said.
Lopes provided D+D with a breakdown of the cities and number of suspected unlicensed contractors who submitted bids for painting services out of the total facing charges in the cities. See the table below.
With the “California Blitz,” the agency seeks to draw attention to the dangers consumers risk when they hire unlicensed contractors, to educate unlicensed workers about California laws, and to further encourage those who qualify to get their license.
Legitimate, licensed contractors face unfair competition from illegal operators who skirt laws that protect homeowners and workers, CSLB says.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
More information: http://www.cslb.ca.gov/.