Painters Nabbed in Undercover Sting
Painters were among nine suspected unlicensed contractors caught in a recent undercover sting operation in California.
Undercover agents from the Contractors State License Board rounded up the alleged off-the-books contractors in the operation Aug. 27 at a “sting home” in Tehachapi. Three of those arrested had bid on painting work.
“State-licensed contractors pass trade and law and business exams, and a criminal background check,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “Consumers who allow unlicensed workers into their homes clearly take unnecessary personal and financial risks.”
Of those suspects caught in the sting, one had an active $110,000 felony warrant, another was on probation for prior illegal contracting charges and one suspect was driving with a suspended driver’s license, according to a press release.
The suspects were identified through advertisements posted on Craigslist, local newspapers and Yellow Pages.
The undercover agents then solicited bids for garage door, concrete, plumbing, painting and masonry projects.
Bids ranged from $1,900 to $6,250, but a state-issued contractor license is required for any home improvement job that is $500 or more in combined labor and material costs, according to the CSLB.
All of the suspects face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license. First-conviction penalties in the state include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines; subsequent convictions bring about harsher penalties.
Cindi Christenson serves as the CSLB Registrar of Contractors. The CSLB licenses and regulates nearly 300,000 contractors in California.
All of the contractors also face the additional misdemeanor charge of illegal advertising, the board said. California state law requires that contractors include their license number in all print, broadcast and online advertisements. Those without a license can advertise as long as the ad states that they are not a state-licensed contractor, and the combined total of a project’s labor and materials costs is under $500.
Five individuals were referred to a prosecutor for failing to have workers’ compensation insurance for employees, which puts workers at risk of not being covered if they are injured and homeowners at risk of being held responsible for onsite injuries.
Five suspects also were referred to a prosecutor for charging an excessive down payment. A down payment for home improvement projects can be no more than 10 percent of the total contract price or $1,000, whichever is less.
The suspects were ordered to appear Nov. 10, in Kern County Superior Court, in Bakersfield.