Monday, 04 June 2007 02:37

Contractor Sting: How Was it Done?

slide8District Attorney Todd Riebe announced last week the undercover sting that netted many local individuals operating illegally without contractor’s licenses. The sting was held in Jackson and now the State Contractor’s Board Investigative Fraud Unit is offering more information on how the sting was conducted. When Illegal operators who showed up at a sting house in Jackson to bid the fake project they were swept up by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and arrested for contracting without a license. Members of the CSLB's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners and invited suspected phony contractors to a duplex to bid on various home improvement projects, including landscaping, painting, concrete work and fencing.

The enforcement action was conducted in cooperation with the Amador County District Attorney’s Office and investigators from the California Department of Insurance, Fraud Division and the Jackson Police Department. During the undercover sting, 11 of the phony contractors were given a “Notices to Appear” (NTA) before an Amador County Superior Court judge in late June to face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license, as well as advertising violations. The charges carry a maximum of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for the first offense. A second violation carries a mandatory 90-day jail sentence. Three of the operators were taken to jail, one for attempting to use a licensed contractor’s number. The other two did not have any valid identification. Two operators were given a non-licensee citation. A licensed contractor will receive a citation for aiding and abetting unlicensed activity. By law, all contractors who perform work that totals $500 or more (labor and materials) must be licensed by the CSLB. “Unlicensed operators often have a lot of other legal problems,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “Homeowners may think they are saving money by hiring someone who is unlicensed. But you never know what kind of individuals you are inviting into your home and what their real motives are. You also don’t know if they even know how to do the job.”

slide12 The CSLB conducts sting operations on an almost weekly basis around the state to highlight the dangers to consumers who hire unlicensed operators, and to educate those phony contractors about California laws. The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 307,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2005-06, the CSLB helped consumers get more than $36 million in restitution.