On Oct. 23, the Contractors State License Board and the Lake County District Attorney’s Office conducted an undercover sting operation targeting suspected unlicensed contractors near Lake County fire zones.
Ten people, all from Lake County, were cited and could be charged with a misdemeanor count of contracting without a license, according to a CSLB press release. The penalty for a first-conviction includes up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
Additionally, five of the suspects may also face a misdemeanor charge for illegal advertising. Unlicensed contractors can only advertise if the ad states that they are not a state-licensed contractor, and the type of jobs advertised for are worth less than $500.
The CSLB press release states that during the one-day operation, in a home near Copsey Creek, CSLB investigators invited suspected unlicensed contractors to provide bids for home improvement jobs ranging from painting, tree removal or trimming, to building a deck.
Ten people showed-up and provided undercover investigators bids that ranged from $800 to $4,000, well in excess of the $500 threshold (labor and/or materials) above which a state-issued contractor license is necessary.
Those arrested include:
Jose Angel Gonzalez-Castro, tree service contractor, Nice, also illegal advertising; Shane Lee Boyd, tree service contractor, Nice; Salvador Estrada, tree service contractor, Upper Lake, also illegal advertising; Dave Edward Elliston, Sr., painting and decorating contractor, Upper Lake; Elijah Wesley Forrey, tree service contractor, Clearlake; Contracting without a license: Jorge Manuel Vieira, Sr., painting and decorating contractor, Clearlake; Ronald Dean Ridley, Sr., painting and decorating contractor, Clearlake Oaks; Robert John Rudolph, siding and decking contractor, Kelseyville, also illegal advertising; Jesus Tecpoyot Pantaleon, siding and decking contractor, Finley, also illegal advertising; Ronny Raymond Waddell, painting and decorating contractor, Lakeport, also illegal advertising;
All suspects were ordered to appear in court on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at the Lake County Superior Court in Lakeport.
During the past three years, nearly 2,000 homes have been destroyed in different parts of Lake County by eight wildfires. The CSLB said it has focused on protecting fire survivors from being victimized by unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors trying to take advantage of people during the rebuilding process.
“Consumers should be sure to take some simple steps before hiring anyone to work in or around their home,” said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. “The fastest way is to make sure they have a state license, and to check the license status using CSLB’s Instant License Check. Homeowners should also use CSLB’s Find My Licensed Contractor feature to download and/or print a list of qualified licensed contractors in their area.”