Dozens Arrested In Contractor Sting

September 12, 2008 12:02:04 AM PDT
State and county investigators cited dozens of unlicensed contractors during a two day sting operation and they say two of them were people you wouldn't want around your family. Investigators from the Fresno County District Attorney's office and the Contractors State Licensing Board responded to classified ads in Craigslist and local publications, and invited contractors to a house to place bids on landscaping, fencing, and concrete work.Our Action News camera was inside the Fresno County home when a man showed up to place a bid on a concrete job in the backyard. Just minutes after giving his estimate, he found himself in handcuffs, facing two misdemeanor charges that could be punishable by up to one year in county jail. That's because under California law, any contractor must have a license to perform jobs that are $500 dollars or more. "He provided me an estimate of $1,570 dollars of labor and materials to do the concrete work I asked him to do," said Jeff Miller, an investigator with the Contractors State Licensing Board.

The man was cited and after admitting he had no license, he offered a family members'. Fresno county district attorney Elizabeth Egan said the undercover operation's purpose was to send a message to illegal contractors and also warn the public. "There are risks for homeowners when they hire illegal operators. They don't know who they're bringing into their homes," said Egan. The D.A. said two of the men who came to the home to place bids had been convicted of serious crimes. One was on parole for rape and robbery, another was a sex offender currently listed on the Megan's Law website. Egan said other risks to homeowners involve being ripped off by contractors who don't complete jobs or do shoddy work.

It's also unfair to those who are following the law. "We do everything thoroughly when we bid, and that's to do it right all the way from the start to the finish. And we end up losing out on these unlicensed guys because they don't have the overhead and they're not legit and they're low-balling," said Vincent Cole, a licensed contractor with Bulldog Plumbing and Construction.

In all, 32 people were cited for operating without a license and 13 were cited for not having workers comp insurance for employees. The district attorney said homeowners should know they could be held liable for medical expenses, if an unlicensed contractor's employee gets hurt on your property.

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