Undercover operation targets unlicensed contractors across California

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State agents went after unlicensed contractors, who are scamming the most vulnerable. (KFSN)

Eighty-five residents, including 41 in the Central Valley, are facing criminal charges after a huge undercover operation. State agents went after unlicensed contractors, who are scamming the most vulnerable.

Officers also found that a lot of those unlicensed contractors had criminal records. They promise a lot so you'll pay up, but they never quite finish the job.

Posing as real homeowners, undercover agents hit Madera County, arresting people who claim to be real construction workers but don't carry the state license. It means they can do job, but there's no accountability and no way to track them down if something goes wrong.

"There are people every day getting taken advantage of to the tunes of thousands of dollars," said Rick Lopes with the Contractors State License Board.

Lopes is talking about people like Joseph Buckley. This Clovis father of five had a real vision for his new backyard: a basketball court, a bicycle path, and grass and trees for the kids.

"He's never been back since the day he finished this piece right here," said Buckley.

And that was after Buckley paid him $10,000 and called him repeatedly. The man promised to finish the job but he never resurfaced.

This is just one example of the broken promises there: what was supposed to be an underground trampoline pit instead is a swampy mess.

"My kids are always playing in this disgusting water. It's seriously horrible," said Buckley.

Buckley turned over all his records to the state, who are now after that contractor. But they say unfortunately there are way too many cases just like this one.

"It's something that we think if people realized the kinds of people they were inviting into their house, they'd really want to think twice," said Lopes.

Lopes hopes people will pay attention when they hire someone to do construction -- check for a license and double check that number with the state. Buckley says he certainly wishes he'd done his homework.

"Definitely never pay over 10 percent upfront, check to see if they're licensed, definitely get referrals, and see if you can actually go to a home where there has been work done by that person," said Buckley.

Thirteen people in Madera County will have to appear in court following that sting. As for the contractor who duped Buckley, the state says criminal charges are pending, but Buckley probably won't ever get that money back.

Related Topics:
businesscrimetrackerundercoverinvestigationfresno countycaliforniaMadera County
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