Painters Caught in CA Sting
Authorities in California have nabbed 10 suspected unlicensed contractors, including eight who submitted bids for painting, in an undercover sting operation in the San Francisco Bay area.
Undercover agents from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) rounded up the suspected off-the-book operators at a “sting home,” March 10 in Novato.
The painting bids far exceeded the legal limit before a state contractor license is required, the board said in a release issued Wednesday (March 16).
The suspects were identified through various sources, including Craigslist, business cards, and referrals. The undercover CSLB investigators, posing as homeowners, then solicited bids for interior and exterior painting, fencing, tree removal and landscaping work.
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.
The contractors also face 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.
CSLB said the painting bids averaged around $3,300. The other two suspects bid on a fence project ($1,500) and tree removal ($3,300).
CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson said she hopes that those cited will stop working illegally and either pursue a contractor license or get out of the construction field altogether.
“This may be the lesson that drives them toward a legitimate career in the contracting industry,” Christenson said. “With a license and working out in the open, it’s likely they’ll find more jobs, and they’ll pay less for a license than they will a fine for unlicensed contracting.”
CSLB regularly stages sting operations throughout the state to crack down on unlicensed contracting, which feeds a multi-billion-dollar underground economy in California, endangers the public, and creates unfair business competition for licensed, law-abiding contractors, according to the board.
The CSLB has an online instant license check that can be used to see if a contractor license is in “good standing.”