12 people were arrested during a two-day operation May 28 and 29, 2014, four were cited for displaying license numbers that were bogus or did not belong to them. That’s on top of the illegal contracting charges that all of the suspects will face as a result of the sting conducted by the Contractor’s State License Board’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team.
The recent Contractors State License Board sting operation in Seaside provided a cautionary tale for consumers: If someone claims to have California contractor license number, verify it.
“This is exactly why we stress the importance of looking on CSLB’s website to confirm license numbers if you’re thinking of hiring someone,” says CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “Unlicensed operators are hoping you won’t check the numbers on an official-looking business card or flier.”
Arrested were Benito Ortiz of Seaside, Matthew Butler of Monterey, Hugo Reyes Hernandez of Salinas, John Kevin Telford of Salinas, Erich Zipse or Carmel, Ciro Moreno of Sand City, John Graybill of Salinas, Hernan Perez of Salinas, Juan Carlos Rojas Cervantes of Seaside, Guillermo Hernandez Gamboa of Seaside, John Jay Halifax of Royal Oaks and Julio Cabrera of Seaside.
All suspects face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a state license (Business and Professions Code section 7028(a)). In California, all home improvement jobs valued at $500 or more (combined labor and material costs) must be conducted by a company or person with a CSLB-issued license.
Nine of the 12 suspects were cited for misdemeanor illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code section 7027.1). State law requires contractors to place their license number on all print, broadcast, and online advertisements. Those without a license can advertise for jobs valued at less than $500, but the ad must state that they are not a licensed contractor.
Things went from bad to worse for Ortiz, Zipse, Cervantes and Halifax. They were cited for fraudulent use of a license number
Background checks conducted at the sting house revealed that four of the suspects also were driving on suspended or revoked licenses. Each had to find another way home, and one was arrested by Seaside Police for outstanding traffic warrants.
SWIFT investigators were assisted by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office and Seaside Police Department during the operation, held at a two-story, single-family home. Investigators posed as homeowners and asked suspects to bid on projects that included landscaping, painting, tile, fencing, and plumbing work. Most of the operators were contacted through ads on craigslist, the online services directory.
CSLB encourages consumers to always “Check The License First” by visiting www.cslb.ca.gov or calling CSLB’s toll-free automated line, 800.321.CSLB (2757). Also, visit CSLB’s website for tips about how to hire a contractor and to sign up for CSLB Email Alerts.