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Long Beach sting targets suspected illegal contractors

November 5, 2009 |  9:42 pm

More than two dozen suspected illegal contractors were cited this week during an undercover sting operation in Long Beach conducted by state authorities.

Investigators posing as homeowners sought bids for work that included welding, painting, landscaping and swimming pool repair, authorities said today.

The investigators were from the Contractors State License Board. They were aided by Long Beach police and city prosecutors. The cited contractors “take away from legitimate licensees who follow the rules and pay taxes,” said board Registrar Steve Sands.

In all, 27 people were cited during the operation. Citations included contracting without a license and illegal advertising. One suspect was cited for using someone else’s license, an offense that could result in a year in jail or state prison and a $10,000 fine, authorities said.

Five people also were cited for requesting excessive down payments. Under state law, contractors can generally ask for a deposit of only 10% of the project or $1,000, whichever is less.

In recent years, Californians have spent an estimated $10 billion annually on home remodeling and construction projects, officials said.

In Los Angeles, the city attorney’s office has filed more than 150 criminal misdemeanor charges against licensed and unlicensed contractors since mid-2006. Those cases have resulted in more than 50 convictions and more than $700,000 in restitution ordered for victims, city officials said.

State authorities offer the following advice to consumers:

  • Any contractor doing a job worth $500 or more must be licensed in California. Ask to see a contractor’s “pocket license.” Check the number with the Contractors State License Board at www.cslb.ca.gov or call (800) 321-2752.
  • Make sure the contract is as specific as possible. Check the website of the license board for advice on contracts and binding agreements, or call to ask for a copy of the Consumer Guide to Home Improvement Contracts.
  • Know about the complaint process. You can fill out an online form or call (800) 321-2752.

—Robert J. Lopez