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Sting operation nets 12 arrests for illegal contracting in Seaside

By Ricardo Navarro, Reporter, Ricardonavarro@kionrightnow.com
Jessica M. Pasko, Digital content director , jessicapasko@kionrightnow.com
Published On: Jun 04 2014 05:00:44 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 06 2014 12:37:11 PM CDT

Unlicensed contractors busted in Seaside

SEASIDE, Calif. -

Twelve people were arrested during a recent two-day sting operation conducted by the Contractors State License Board in Seaside. 

Investigators posed as homeowners and asked supposed contractors to bid on projects that included landscaping, painting, fencing and plumbing work. Most were contacted through Craigslist ads.

During the May 28-29 operation, state officials cited four people for using false contractors' license numbers -- either bogus numbers or ones that didn't belong to them.

Nine of the 12 suspects were cited for misdemeanor illegal advertising, officials said. Under state law, contractors must place their license number on all advertisements. Those without a license can advertise for jobs valued at less than $500, but the ad must state that they are not a licensed contractor.

Four of the individuals also were driving on suspended or revoked driver's licenses.

All of the suspects face misdemeanor charges of contracting without a state license and are due in Monterey County Superior Court for arraignment on July 11.

"This is exactly why we stress the importance of looking on CSLB’s website to confirm license numbers if you’re thinking of hiring someone,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "Unlicensed operators are hoping you won’t check the numbers on an official-looking business card or flier.”

The following individuals face charges from the sting: Benito Ortiz, Juan Carlos Cervantes, Julio Cabreba and Guillermo Hernandez Gamboa of Seaside; Matthew Stephen Butler of Monterey; Hugo Reyes Hernandez, John Kevin Telford, John Graybill and Hernan Perez of Salinas; Erich Zipse of Carmel; Ciro Moreno of Sand City; and John Jay Halifax of Royal Oaks.

Investigators from the Contractors State License Board were assisted by investigators from the Monterey County District Attorney's Office and the Seaside Police Department.

The state is cracking down to give licensed contractors an even playing field - plus, in the long run it will help homeowners.

"What we get is people who come after the fact. 'I had somebody start a fence, they didnt finish the fence,'" said Christie Cromeenes, executive director with the Central Coast Builders Association.

Sromeenes said fixing or finishing the work from an unlicensed contractor ends up costing the homeowner more. Even worse for the homeowner, she said, the liability you face.

"If they are not licensed then you are hiring them as an employee so you are liable, for them. If they fall on the job, they could take you for your home," said Cromeenes.
     
Cromeenes said it's important to do your homework.

Verify their license number is really theirs - you can also ask the association to help you,  since shoddy work could cost you money and hassle.

"You can imagine if the shoddy work led to an explosion, that could cause death or injury not only to homeowners but to people in neighborhoods," said Edward Hasel, managing deputy attorney with the Monterey County District Attorney's office.