CSLB investigators posed as property owners, inviting suspected illegal operators to bid on home improvement projects such as concrete, landscaping, fencing, painting, and tree trimming. Those who bid more than $500 received notices to appear in court for contracting without a license. California law requires that all home improvement projects valued at more than $500 for labor and materials be performed by a licensed contractor.
Some suspects are facing additional charges for illegal advertising and soliciting excessive down payments. State law requires that contractor license numbers be in all advertisements. Those who are not licensed may perform work valued at less than $500, but their ads must state that they are not a licensed contractor. Contractors are also prohibited by law from soliciting a down payment larger than $1,000 or 10 percent of the contract price, whichever is less.
This is not the first time Thomas Christopher Chadwick, 38, of Bangor, and Alvaro Barajas Garcia, 45, of Chico, have been caught in a CSLB sting. Both were issued notices to appear during a September 14, 2010 operation at a Chico mobile home park. Garcia pleaded guilty and was fined $1,010 for contracting without a license. Chadwick pleaded not guilty and is set for trial on one count of contracting without a license on June 20, 2011. Garcia and Barajas are now charged for a second offense which carries a penalty of up to $5,000 and at least 90 days in county jail.
“This sting should serve as notice that CSLB and its partners are serious about cracking down on illegal contracting activity in Butte County,” said Registrar Steve Sands.
In addition to the suspects caught in the sting operation, CSLB and the DA’s office will conduct follow-up investigations on at least two licensed contractors who are suspected of having employees who are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Contractors are legally required to purchase workers’ comp coverage for all employees to protect homeowners from liability if a worker is injured on their property.
“The Butte County District Attorney’s Office welcomes the opportunity to work with agencies like CSLB to ensure compliance with our state’s consumer protection laws,” said Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey. “It is also critical that Butte County contractors who provide good jobs and pay their proper taxes and insurance are not put at a competitive disadvantage by these illegal operators.”
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on the CSLB website or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). You can also sign up for CSLB e-mail alerts at www.cslb.ca.gov. CSLB licenses and regulates California's more than 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2009-10, CSLB helped recover nearly $42 million in ordered restitution for consumers.