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Licensing Blitz Nets 78 CA Contractors

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

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Painters and other contractors with sex, weapon and drug convictions, revoked licenses, and other problems are facing criminal charges after being swept up in California's latest undercover sting operation.

The "Spring Blitz" by California's Contractors State License Board rounded up, among others, a registered sex offender, a suspect with a conviction for statutory rape, an individual wanted on a charge of corporal punishment of a minor child, one on federal probation for bribery, and several caught using license numbers of other contractors.

CSLB Sting - Orange, CA
Images: CSLB

Investigators arrested 78 residential contractors, including painting, flooring, masonry, concrete and drywall workers. Many were spotted on Craigslist.

As in the past, most of the contractors caught in the sting were identified through their ads on Craigslist.

The state License Board regulates California's more than 300,000 contractors.

6 Cities, 2 Days

For two days last week, investigators from the board's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) conducted stings in Orange (Orange County), Lawndale (Los Angeles County), San Bernardino (San Bernardino County), Chico (Butte County), Oakdale (Stanislaus County), and Bakersfield (Kern County).

Investigators posed as homeowners seeking bids for painting, electrical, landscaping, flooring, drywall, swimming pool maintenance, concrete, masonry, and tree removal work.

Authorities ultimately arrested 78 people who are now expected to face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license. The penalty for a conviction is up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. At least one is a repeat offender and could face a mandatory 90-day jail sentence if convicted a second time.

Other Charges, Deportations

In addition, 57 individuals also may be charged with illegal advertising. State law requires contractors to place their license number in all print, broadcast, and online advertisements. Contractors without a license may advertise to perform jobs valued at less than $500, but the ad must state that they are not a licensed contractor. The penalty is a fine of $700 to $1,000.

CSLB Sting - Lawndale

An undercover investigator posing as a homeowner talks with a contractor in Lawndale, in Los Angeles County. A dozen contractors were arrested at the site.

Twenty-four suspects may be charged with requesting an excessive down payment. In California, a down payment for a home improvement project may not exceed 10 percent of the contract total or $1,000, whichever is less. This misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine.

Seventeen phony contractors also were issued Stop Orders. State investigators may halt job-site activity when any person (licensed or not) lacks workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees. Failure to comply with a Stop Order can result in misdemeanor charges and penalties, including 60 days in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines.

Fourteen suspects were detained by the Department of Homeland Security / U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for identification and/or deportation. One suspect in Bakersfield fled the scene. More charges are possible as other suspects provide bids by email or fax.

Arrest Highlights

Among the individuals arrested were:

  • Guillermo Serrano Tejas, whose license was revoked in 1990;
  • Emilio Quakenbush, a registered sex offender who gave a $22,500 bid for drywall work;
  • Michael Anthony Giuiland, now on federal probation for bribery, who used another contractor's license number;
  • Benigno Arguelles Martinez, who has a prior conviction for statutory rape;
  • Gustavo Martinez and Juan Garcia Torres, alleged business partners who gave a bid to replace a driveway. When investigators identified themselves, Torres fled in their vehicle, leaving Martinez behind. Torres had previous deportations and served prison time for illegal entry;
  • Juan Manuel Villanueva, wanted on an arrest warrant for corporal punishment of a minor child and vehicle theft, who provided false identification;

CSLB Licensing Video

California's Contractors State License Board wants homeowners to be on the lookout for unlicensed contractors. A public information video helps get the word out.

  • Jerry Allen Hensen, who had brought an employee to give a bid to remove three 60- to 70-foot trees. The employee, who was carrying drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine, was arrested and his vehicle impounded;
  • Edward Fragoso, whose license was suspended in December 2010 and has since expired.
  • Julio Jimenez, who was caught in a similar sting in April 2012, convicted, served 10 days in jail and was on three years’ probation. A second conviction would carry a mandatory 90-day jail sentence;
  • Ricardo Marquez-Martinez, who is to be deported for felony drug, burglary, and firearms violations; and
  • Juan Ayala Colunga, who is to be deported on felony charges, including corporal abuse.

A full list of those arrested is available through the board's Public Affairs Office.

'Serious' About Enforcement

“[The License Board] and its partners in law enforcement are serious about enforcing our state’s consumer protection laws,” Registrar Steve Sands said in a statement that accompanied the board's announcement.

“Unlicensed, illegal activity that puts homeowners at risk and puts those who follow state laws at a competitive disadvantage will not be tolerated.”

   

Tagged categories: Concrete repair; Contractors State License Board; Drywall; Licensing; Painters; Residential contractors

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