BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Fourteen contractors in Bakersfield were cited last month as part of an undercover sting operation combating unlicensed contracting.
The Contractors State License Board partnered with the Kern County District Attorney’s Office and the state Department of Insurance for the operation, which resulted in 14 contractors being cited for allegedly placing illegal bids on home improvement projects.
In addition, the CSLB said some of the contractors did not carry the proper workers’ compensation insurance for their employees.
“Those who operate without a California state-issued contractor license can potentially harm the public, tarnish the respectability of the construction industry, and take work from law-abiding licensed contractors by operating in the underground economy,” said CSLB Registrar David Fogt.
For the operation, the board’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team reached out to alleged unlicensed contractors through their advertisements soliciting for construction work. Agents then posed as homeowners and invited suspects to place bids at a single-family home near Meadows Field Airport.
Of the individuals contacted, the CSLB said 14 came to place bids on fencing, flooring, landscaping, electrical and painting. Bids ranged from $1,200 to $17,500.
The CSLB said 12 of the suspects are now facing illegal contracting charges for placing bids well over the legal $500 threshold that requires a contractor license and two were referred to the Kern County DA for further action.
First-conviction penalties for contracting without a license in California include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. All 14 individuals are facing an additional misdemeanor charge for their illegal advertisements, according to the board.
Licensed contractors must display their license number in all advertisements and unlicensed contractors must state in all ads for work valued at less than $500 that they do not have a license, the CSLB said.
The penalty for violating the advertising rules for unlicensed contractors is a fine of $700 to $1,000.
“Legitimate contractors who follow the rules should not have to compete with unlicensed contractors who refuse to abide by even the most basic and fundamental consumer protection laws,” said Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer. “Ensuring that licensing rules are enforced helps ensure the integrity of all contracting industries as well as protect the consumers who rely on contractors’ specialized knowledge.”
Twelve of the suspects who did not have the proper workers’ compensation insurance policies to cover those working for them are facing additional charges, according to the CSLB.
The board said contractors must carry workers’ compensation insurance if they have employees. If contractors don’t have employees, they must file a workers’ compensation exemption, which is noted on the license record.
Eleven of the suspects violating workers’ compensation regulations were also issued a stop order, a legal demand to cease all employee labor at a job site due to violation of state workers compensation insurance requirements, the CSLB said.
Consumers are urged to check a contractor’s license status by conducting an “Instant License Check” on the CSLB’s website by typing in the contractor’s license number, name, or business name.
The search results reveal whether or not the contractor’s license is active and/or in good standing. Homeowners can also use CSLB’s Find My Licensed Contractor feature to build and download a list of qualified licensed contractors in their area.
Those who were cited are: Walter Hugo Mayta Tinoco, Stephen David Lewis, Maurisco Lopez, Bryan Galicia, Thomas Fahmi Badwi, Miguel Felix Hernandez, Edwin Pimentel, Rafa Landa, Humbert Jilmer V Colquechagua, Jose Medina Negrete, Jose Leobardo Aguilar, Raymond Figueroa and Eric Lee Hogan.