Contractors State License Board Conducts Sting Operation in Mountain Communities

Big Bear City, CA, August 5, 2010, 3:15pm – A Contractors State License Board (CSLB) sting netted 16 suspects for unlicensed contracting and related violations in Big Bear City on July 22, 2010, and CSLB is warning homeowners to take precautions when hiring people for home improvement projects. The San Bernardino County Sheriffs and District Attorney’s Office, along with the California Department of Insurance, assisted CSLB in this operation.  Members of CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) posed as homeowners and invited suspected unlicensed operators to bid on projects. If the suspects bid more than $500 for a job and did not have a license, they received a notice to appear in San Bernardino County Superior Court to face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license and related violations. Fifteen of the 16 also face charges of illegal advertising, and six of them will answer to charges of soliciting an excessive down payment. B&P Code requires contractors to include their license number in all advertisements.  CSLB recommends that consumers always get at least three project bids from licensed professionals.  “Homeowners should also be aware that if they do hire somebody without a license, there is a tremendous risk,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “These scammers do not carry workers’ compensation insurance and the property owner could be liable if the illegal operator or their employees are injured during the project.”

CSLB urges consumers to remember the following tips when hiring a contractor:
-Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door.
-Verify the contractor license by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or via CSLB’s automated phone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
-Ask to see a photo identification to make sure you’re dealing with the correct person.
-Don’t pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. There is an exception to this for about two dozen contractors who have special bonds for consumer protection that are noted on the CSLB website.
-Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let the payments get ahead of the work.
-Check references, and get at least three bids and a written contract before your project begins.

The following suspects are scheduled for arraignment in the San Bernardino County Superior Court at 351 North Arrowhead Avenue in San Bernardino on October 28, 2010, at 8:00am. Ignacio Adam Mote- Crestline, Bulmaro Solis Davila- Big Bear, Darin Keith Hibbs- Big Bear City, Roasario Romero- La Puente, Steve Edward Costley- Big Bear City, Nikolas James Strich- Erwin Lake, Jerls Wayne Houston- Big Bear Lake, Marshall Scott Richter- Big Bear City, George Alfred Johnson- Sugarloaf, Mario Dimas Ramirez- Highland, Joel Curtis Cimino- Lake Elsinore
Alvaro Morales- Big Bear City, Bradley Steven Slovick- Lucerne Valley, Edgar Dario Ramirez- San Bernardino, Oscar Quinonez Gutierrez- San Berdardino, Brian John Bowers- Big Bear Lake.

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on the CSLB website or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). You can also sign up for CSLB e-mail alerts at www.cslb.ca.gov. CSLB licenses and regulates California’s more than 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2009-10, CSLB helped recover more than $42 million in ordered restitution for the public.

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