Exclusive: 16 cited for illegal auto repair

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The California Bureau of Automotive Repair spent two days this week busting unlicensed auto repair workers.

Action News saw two of the 16 people busted in this two day undercover sting. Both suspects said they know how to work under the hood of cars, but they claim they didn't know operating without a license is illegal.

One of the suspects, Osama Alrawashdeh, told undercover investigators he's a licensed auto repairman with a shop called Sam's. But once he was placed in handcuffs and investigators began pressing for answers he admitted to off-the-books work for extra cash.

"I'm doing this because I wanted to pay for my student loans," Alrawashdeh said, "The point is I didn't know it was illegal. If I knew that it was illegal I would have never ever put an ad on craigslist."

BAR investigators said there are plenty of people operating the same way, posting ads on Craigslist.org and Facebook, offering cheap repairs, then illegally and often improperly working on their cars.

"It can get to the point where people are paying for services they're not receiving, or the vehicle can become unsafe because of substandard repairs," said Gilbert Sanchez, the field office supervisor for the Fresno-area BAR.

Posting ads and even offering repair estimates is illegal without a proper license. It is a misdemeanor crime.

"I thought I was good," said Tony Herrera, another man suspected of breaking the law. "I've been doing it for 3.5, almost 4 years now. And I've never had an issue. I didn't know it was a big issue, so now I realize it."

Herrera is on probation. He told Action News he's working three jobs and has a business license from the City of Fresno. He claims he didn't know he needs an auto repair license from the state.

"A lot of these guys have been in business for a while," Sanchez said. "They know the routine. They've been advertising on Facebook and Craigslist for a long period of time."

All 16 of the people busted were cited and released. They all face up to six months in prison or a $1,000 fine if convicted.

Investigators say by finding people online you never know who will show up. One suspect was found with handcuffs in his pocket, and another was found to be a sex offender, according to investigators.
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