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The Internet is flooded with illegal advertisements posted by unlicensed contractors.

And investigators from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) caught 21 of them during an undercover sting operation in Bakersfield. Sixteen out of the 21 people cited did not have workers’ compensation insurance for their employees and one suspect was taken into custody on an outstanding arrest warrant.

On February 22-23, 2017, investigators from CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) searched through online and local advertisements to compile a list of suspected unlicensed contractors. Posing as homeowners, investigators invited the suspects to place bids on home improvement projects for a single-family home near Meadows Field Airport.

Bids ranged from $1,000 for concrete work to $8,400 for installing French doors. Twenty people placed bids above the legal limit and received a citation for contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028). A state contractor license is required if the quoted value of the construction materials and/or labor is $500 or higher.

Suspects were cited with the assistance of the California Department of Insurance and the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.

During the sting, officers found that one suspect had an outstanding $24,000 arrest warrant for domestic violence. He was arrested and taken to county jail.

All 21 suspects who showed-up to the sting were cited for illegal advertising. State law requires unlicensed contractors to state in all advertising that they are not licensed.

Two thirds of the suspects caught during the sting were also cited for neglecting to purchase workers’ compensation insurance policies for their employees (Labor Code section 3700.5). Licensed contractors without employees must file a WC exemption with CSLB, which is noted on the license record. The exception is for roofing contractors, who must carry WC insurance, whether they work solo or have employees.

Eleven of the bidders required an excessive down payment before starting work and were also written-up for that violation. It is illegal for contractors to ask for more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less (BPC §7159.5 (a)(3)(b)).

All offenders were ordered to appear in court on May 3, 2017, at 8:30 a.m. in Kern County Superior Court, 1415 Truxtun Ave # 212, Bakersfield, CA 93301.