SWIFT Enforcement Action

You likely won’t know them, hear about them or see them, but CSLB investigators are waiting to ‘sting’ criminals pretending to be contractors in CA. As State budgets are impacted by reductions across the board, SWIFT agents are allying with local law enforcement in their efforts to protect consumer and contractor alike from damages caused by fraudulent criminal activity…

Unlicensed contractors have always been a problem for the construction industry and will unfortunately never totally be eliminated.  I have read and heard from some legitimate contractors that the CSLB is not doing enough to combat unlicensed activities.  For those that are playing by the rules, seeing a homeowner hire someone who is not licensed or bonded is upsetting to say the least.

The present enforcement activities against those that are unlicensed, uninsured and uncovered by Worker’s Compensation is the strongest I’ve seen in my 30 years dealing with the CSLB.

Two recent examples show how active the Board is throughout the State.  On June 9, 2011, The CSLB in conjunction with the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office and California Department of Insurance conducted a sting operation at a home near the Santa Cruz Harbor.  They netted seven people suspected of violating state consumer protection and labor laws. Santa Cruz County District Attorney Bob Lee stated, “We strive to maintain a level playing field in a difficult economic environment by trying to prevent subjects who lower costs by not abiding by the law from undercutting licensed contractors.”

 

The day before, on June 8th, the Contractors Board in partnership with the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office and State Dept. of Insurance caught 11 unlicensed operators in an undercover sting in Woodland.

 

Investigators from the CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) and the DA’s office posed as homeowners seeking bids for home improvement projects such as roofing, painting, fencing and general building. Those who submitted bids for more than $500 for labor and materials received citations from the DA’s office for misdemeanor contracting without a license. Those who claimed they had workers will also face misdemeanor charges for failure to obtain Worker’s Compensation Insurance.

One unlicensed individual from Santa Cruz bid for roofing work and did not have a license, or worker’s comp insurance (which roofing contractors must have even if they certify to CSLB that they have no employees).

An unlicensed painter was trapped by the Woodland sting and received a Notice to Appear for contracting without a license.  This individual is no stranger to CSLB in that he has a pending court case in October, on charges of – yes you guessed it — contracting without a license.

According to CSLB Registrar Steve Sands “these sting operations are a prime example of how violations of state consumer protection laws will not be tolerated by CSLB and its partnering agencies”, He went on to say that, “Hopefully these stings will help educate consumers about the importance of checking that a person they hire to work on their home or property has the appropriate license for the job they are undertaking and appropriate insurance coverage for themselves and their workers”.

FYI-Best wishes in retirement to Gwen Wells, one of the longest serving most knowledgeable Builder’s Exchange executives I have had the pleasure to know. Gwen leads the Monterey area’s Builder’s Exchange of the Central Coast serving the best interests of contractors for more than 43 years.

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