Sting nabs unlicensed contractors

The Contractors State License Board’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team has arrested 21 unlicensed contractors in a sting operation at a Fresno County home near Fig Garden.

The sting, that took place on Jan. 11-12, found contractors that were allegedly charging excessive up-front payments. The Fresno District Attorney’s Office, Employment Development Department, California Highway Patrol and Fresno Police Special Investigations Bureau assisted in the two-day operation. Tips from the California Better Business Bureau as well as suspected print and online advertisements helped identify the illegal operators, a release from the Contractors State License Board reported.

Investigators posed as homeowners, 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 Code section 7028. Contractors are also required to place their state contractor license number in all advertisements.

Of the 21, 16 individuals solicited more than the legal down payment amount of 10 percent of the contract price. The district attorney will also charge five of the sting suspects for failure to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees.

Two suspects are not strangers to the license board. Hilario Ortiz, 52, of Larry’s flooring and Home Repair in Fresno was caught in two 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.