42 year old Adan Contreras Rivas, an unlicensed contractor from Modesto, was on the Contractors State License Board “Most Wanted” list and served a previous prison sentence for contracting without a license.
He was sentenced last week to seven years and eight months in prison after a conviction on charges of defrauding and stealing from customers.
Rivas was the target of a sting operation conducted in October by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Insurance. He was again arrested in November after posing as a licensed landscaping contractor and stealing thousands of dollars from customers, the news release said.
Rivas was previously sent to prison for several convictions including grand theft, theft from a senior citizen and contracting without a license in Santa Clara County.
And the Contractors State License Board continues regular sting operations in cities statewide, and there seems to be an abundance of violators who have no license, and no workers’ compensation insurance.
On March 8 the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) announced it had cited unlicensed individuals in San Diego County who placed bids as high as $20,000 for residential contracting work.
In February, CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) partnered with the California Department of Insurance and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and went undercover to catch unlicensed contractors in Ramona. Of those invited, 11 came to the site and placed high bids without having the proper license to back up their workmanship.
The bids ranged from $4,500 for tree removal to as much as $20,000 for concrete – all above the legal $500 threshold for contracting without a license. In California, contracting without a license is a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of up to $15,000.
A Notice to Appear in criminal court was issued to these individuals at the sting site while one individual was referred to the San Diego County District Attorney for misdemeanor prosecution for placing a construction bid after leaving the property.
All 11 suspects could face additional administrative or criminal charges for placing illegal advertisements for construction services without having the required license. Licensed contractors are required to include their license number on all business-related materials (such as advertisements, vehicles, and business cards).
Three individuals also asked for an excessive down payment ahead of starting the work. Contractors can only ask for 10% or $1,000, whichever is less. This is a misdemeanor that could result in charges of up to $5,000, or up to a one-year county jail sentence, or both the fine and imprisonment.
Three individuals were issued an order to cease all work requiring employees until a workers’ compensation insurance policy is obtained. CSLB investigators can halt jobsite activity when any person, with or without a contractor license, does not have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees. Failure to comply with a stop order can result in misdemeanor charges and penalties, including 60 days in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
Penalties for not carrying workers’ compensation insurance can be severe. For a first- time offense, suspects could be sentenced to one year in county jail and/or pay a fine of up to $10,000. They may also be fined $1,000 per employee on the payroll at that time – up to $100,000. There are additional penalties if an injured worker files a workers’ compensation claim, and the employer doesn’t have the proper insurance. That employee can also file a civil action against the employer.