Dozens Arrested In OC Bust On Unlicensed Contractors

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO (CBS) — Officials say nearly two dozen arrests were made in an undercover sting in San Juan Capistrano, one of nine cities targeted in a statewide crackdown on unlicensed contractors.

Nearly half of the 21 unlicensed contractors busted in Orange County during the Oct. 20-21 operation organized by the Contractors State License Board were in the swimming pool business.

“The swimming pool industry worked with us, so we were able to target people working in the industry without a license,” said CSLB spokesman Rick Lopes.

Investigators posed as homeowners soliciting contractors for work such as laying tile or concrete or installing swimming pools. Investigators found the contractors through online and newspaper advertisements and leads from licensed workers.

If the bids were above $500 for labor and materials, the state maximum for unlicensed work, the contractors were given a misdemeanor citation for contracting without a license or illegal advertising, Lopes said. The maximum penalty is six months in jail and a $5,000 fine for a first offense.

The unlicensed workers were encouraged to get a license, Lopes said, adding that they were given applications.

“Our goal isn’t to necessarily put them out of business,” Lopes said. “Our goal is to get them to follow the law.”

None of those cited in Orange County had outstanding arrest warrants.

The stings across the state led to 111 arrests, including one sex offender. Those cited in Orange County were ordered to appear in court Jan. 20.

Unlicensed work can pose many problems for homeowners, Lopes said. For instance, if a worker is hurt on the job and the unlicensed contractor does not have workers’ compensation insurance, the homeowner could be on the hook for medical expenses, Lopes said.

Some con artists will ask for half the cost of the job as a down-payment, which is against state law, and then disappear without doing any of the work, Lopes said.

The license costs $350, but some contractors likely avoid doing the paperwork to skip the expense of workers’ compensation insurance or taxes, Lopes said.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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