SACRAMENTO – Illegal contracting was plentiful in the Fresno County city of Sanger during a two-day undercover sting operation conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), with the assistance of the Sanger Police Departmentand California Highway Patrol.
Eleven individuals were caught on July 29 and five on July 30, 2015, after CSLB Statewide Investigative Fraud Team(SWIFT) investigators invited suspected unlicensed operators to place bids for renovation work at a former hospital near the Fowler Switch Canal. Bids were up to $10,000, while state law requires a contractor license for all work that will cost $500 or more in combined labor and material costs. All of the individuals caught for illegal contracting also failed to have a city business license to conduct their work (Sanger City Code 18-32a).
“Always check the contractor license first and don’t be lured by the least expensive bid,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “Many times, unlicensed operators underbid a project and add on costs once the project is under way.” CSLB also recommends having a timetable and payment schedule for each phase of a project and carefully monitoring the project to make sure payments don’t get ahead of the work.
Finding a licensed contractor is as simple as a quick check on CSLB’s website, www.cslb.ca.gov, or call to CSLB’s toll-free information line, 800-321-CSLB (2752). Licensed contractors can be verified with CSLB by using the license number, business name, or the names of people associated with the license.
Each of the cited individuals faces a charge of contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code (BPC) section 7028). First-conviction penalties for contracting without a license include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. A second conviction can carry a mandatory sentence of up to 90 days in jail. Penalties are more severe with each successive violation.
Fourteen of the 16 cited also face illegal advertising charges (BPC 7027.1). State law prohibits unlicensed contractors from advertising for construction-related work valued at $500 or more, although they can advertise jobs below that amount if the ad states that they are not licensed.
Five individuals were cited for failing to have workers’ compensation insurance for employees (Labor Code 3700.5), which puts the workers at risk of not being covered if they are injured and homeowners at risk of being held responsible for onsite injuries. Additionally, investigators issued three Stop Orders to the illegal operators, which meant they were required to halt work on all active projects until the appropriate workers’ compensation insurance is secured.
Suspects were ordered to appear at 8:30 a.m. on October 23, 2015, in Fresno County Superior Court, 1100 Van Ness Ave, Fresno, CA 93721. (MAP)