Detectives from the Santa Clarita Valley station teamed up with investigators from the State Contractors License Board for a two-day sting operation Sept. 15 and 16 aimed at catching unlicensed contractors.
During the operation, where contractors responded to a request for a bid at the sting location, 29 individuals were either arrested or received citations and were released in the field.
“We do one or two of these a year,” said sheriff’s Sgt. John Bomben, who led the five-man team of local detectives. “These guys come out to give bids and we determine if they’re not licensed or even skilled enough to complete the job.”
Giving a bid on a job without possessing a contractor’s license is a misdemeanor.
“If we find they don’t have a license, we cite and release them in the field,” Bomben continued. “In some cases, it’s not that simple. We generally run across someone who has a past offense or an outstanding warrant and there’s always someone on probation showing up. Also, if we can’t identify someone to our satisfaction, that’s another reason to take them down to the station.”
Complaints usually go to the State Contractors License Board, which works with the sheriff to try and stop unlicensed contractors. With the current recession, more and more homeowners are looking for ways to cut corners and sometimes give jobs to the lowest bidders, without checking for a license.
Bomben said that homeowners thinking they’re saving money could be putting themselves in jeopardy by using these workers.
“People don’t come to us unless it’s something like the contractor has stolen money or taken a hefty down payment and not completed the work,” he said. “Legitimate contractors complain because it makes for an uneven playing field for them to get work; they’re paying insurance, bonds, the license itself, if they have employees they’re reporting wages and taxes and workers comp and these guys aren’t.
“Homeowners who are trying to save a dollar by going to these unlicensed contractors are exposing themselves to substandard work,” he said. “If something goes wrong, they won’t have any recourse such as going after a bond, but they’re really sticking their neck out.”