A two-day sting operation in East Palo Alto resulted in the 15 people being cited for alleged contractor fraud, the California Contractors State License Board announced on Thursday.
Last week, investigators from the Licensing Board's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team posed as homeowners and invited contractors to a single-family home near Facebook's headquarters. Fifteen people placed bids on services that included concrete paving, general building, electrical, tree services, plumbing, masonry, cabinet and milling, fencing and painting. The proposed work ranged between $1,000 and $12,500.
The cited contractors allegedly exceeded the state's $500 threshold for combined labor and materials for unlicensed handypersons, above which they are required to have a contractor's license, board officials said in a statement.
All 15 were cited for contracting without a license; 14 were also cited for illegal advertising. A first conviction for misdemeanor contracting without a license can result in up to six months in jail or up to $5,000 in fines or both. A second conviction carries a mandatory sentence of 90 days in jail. Violating the advertising rules for unlicensed contractors result in a fine of $700 to $1,000.
One of those cited could face a more serious felony charge for allegedly using else's license. If convicted, that individual could face up to a year in jail and $10,000 in fines, officials said.
A licensing board official made it clear that the state does not tolerate unlicensed contracting.
"Any way you work it, the law is clear. Contractor licenses cannot be 'shared,'" said Dave Fogt, the board registrar. "Unlicensed contractors cannot legally perform work that costs $500 or more and must state in all advertisements that they are not unlicensed. If they choose not to abide by these rules then they should find another line of work."
The 15 people came from Sunnyvale, Newark, Ione, Burlingame, San Francisco, Castro Valley, Hayward, San Mateo, Campbell, San Jose, Millbrae and Redwood City. Only one was from East Palo Alto, according to licensing board officials.
The East Palo Alto Police Department and the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office assisted in the sting operation.
Those cited are scheduled to appear in San Mateo County Superior Court on Feb. 14.
Contractors State License Board officials said consumers should always "Check The License First" by visiting cslb.ca.gov or call the toll-free automated line: 800-321-CSLB (2752). Tips on how to hire a contractor, and to sign up for alerts can be found on the website.