Contractors – if you are contracting without a license, asking for more than $1,000 as a deposit or not carrying workers compensation Insurance you better be aware that the Contractors State License Board is looking to send you to Court and pay heavy fines!

SACRAMENTO – Most of the 21 individuals caught by the Contractors State License Board’s (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) during an undercover sting operation at a Fresno County home near Fig Garden on January 11 and 12, 2012, were found to be illegally charging excessive up-front payments. The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, Employment Development Department, California Highway Patrol, and the Fresno Police Special Investigations Bureau assisted in the two-day operation.

Tips from the Central California Better Business Bureau, as well as suspected illegal print and online advertisements, helped identify the illegal operators. Investigators posed as homeowners, and contacted the suspected non-licensees, seeking bids for plumbing, painting, tree trimming, fencing, landscaping, and general construction projects. The 21 suspects who bid more than $500 for labor and materials received notices to appear in court for contracting without a license, in violation of California Business and Professions (B&P) Code section 7028. Contractors are also required to place their state contractor license number in all advertisements, under B&P Code section 7027.1.

Sixteen individuals solicited more than the legal down payment amount (10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less) and will face additional charges for violating B&P Code section 7159.5 (a)(3)(b). The district attorney will also charge five of the sting suspects for failure to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees, in violation of Labor Code section 3700.5.

Two suspects are not strangers to CSLB. Hilario Ortiz, 52, of Larry’s Flooring and Home Repair in Fresno, said he was “through.” Ortiz was caught in two CSLB stings in 2010. James Lawrence Campbell, 40, of Fresno, had an outstanding warrant for not showing up for sentencing after entering a plea of contracting without a license and illegal advertising in a prior case. Unlicensed fencing contractor Martin Mendoza, 35, of Fresno, is a registered sex offender. Since 2005, state law has required that those applying for new licenses or an additional license classification must submit fingerprints for a Department of Justice background check.