SACRAMENTO – The Contractors State License Board’s (CSLB) Central Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) conducted an undercover sting at a Merced home Aug. 25 and issued notices to 10 people to appear in court and Stop Orders to those contracting for home improvement projects without a state contractor license or workers’ compensation insurance.
Both are required by state law to ensure consumer and employee protection. The Merced County District Attorney’s Office assisted Central SWIFT in the operation.
During the operation, according to a news release from the state agency, Central SWIFT made use of CSLB’s newly granted authority to issue stop work orders to unlicensed and licensed contractors who do not have workers’ compensation insurance for employees.
California Labor Code requires that each employee be covered by a workers’ compensation insurance policy, and CSLB requires this to maintain a contractor license in “good standing.” This employee insurance coverage also protects homeowners from liability if a worker is injured on their property. CSLB issued five Stop Orders during the Merced operation and has issued 69 such orders since the law took effect in January.
Ten phony contractors showed up at the Merced home, according to the news release. They bid more than $500 for labor and materials and weren’t properly licensed to do so, according to CSLB. The California Business and Professions (B&P) Code requires a license for all home improvement and construction work valued at $500 or more for labor and materials. Each person received a notice to appear in court for contracting without a license and illegal advertising. (B&P Code also requires that contractors place their license number in all forms of advertisements.) Those who don’t have a contractor license may advertise to do jobs valued at less than $500, but their ads must state that they are not a licensed contractor.
The following suspects who received notices to appear in court are scheduled to be arraigned in Department 9 of Merced County Superior Court at 2260 N Street on Oct. 10:
Jorge Valencia, 49, Merced, ceramic and mosaic tile, contracting without a license, illegal advertising; Jorge Moreno Mendez, 39, Moreno Landscaping, contracting without a license, illegal advertising, failure to carry workers’ comp, stop work order; Kenneth Randall Kelly, 29, K&L Floors, Modesto, contracting without a license, illegal advertising, failure to carry workers’ comp, stop work order; Jose Gonzalez, 43, AJG Complete Lawn, Merced, contracting without a license, illegal advertising, failure to carry workers’ comp, stop work order.
James Robert Eaton, 49, Jim’s Handyman Services, Atwater, contracting without a license, illegal advertising; Jaime Aguilar Avina, 41, Avina Brothers Gardening, Atwater, contracting without a license, illegal advertising; Ramon Wilfredo Diaz, 43, Diaz Handyman, Merced, contracting without a license, illegal advertising; Eduardo DeLaHerran-Beltran, 28, handyman, Delhi, contracting without a license, illegal advertising; Brandon Alan Ellison, 26, Ellison’s Painting & Home Repair, Merced. contracting without a license, illegal advertising, failure to carry workers’ comp, stop order; Salvador Murrietta, 24, fencing/handyman, San Jose, contracting without a license, illegal advertising, failure to carry workers’ comp, stop order.
CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring anyone to work on their home: · Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID to verify their identity. · Always check the license number on CSLB’s website at www.cslb.ca.gov or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com to make sure the license is in good standing. · Don’t pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special bonds to protect consumers. These exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website.· Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let payments get ahead of the work.· Get at least three bids, check references, and get a written contract.