Contractor sting nabs sex offender, elder abuse suspect
A sting targeting unlicensed contractors netted an elder abuse suspect and a registered sex offender in Eureka Tuesday. Below is a press release from the Contractors State License Board.
SACRAMENTO – A man awaiting trial in Butte County for felony theft from an elder and misdemeanor unlicensed contracting was one of 14 suspected unlicensed contractors nabbed during a Contractors State License Board (CSLB) Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) sting in Eureka this week.
The undercover operation in cooperation with the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office (DA) was held in a Eureka home on February 2, 2010. CSLB and DA investigators also conducted sweeps of construction sites on February 3 and 4, 2010, to ensure projects are being undertaken by licensees with the proper workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
During Tuesday’s sting, SWIFT investigators posed as homeowners, seeking bids for projects including painting, tile, flooring, concrete, and fencing. They invited suspected unlicensed contractors who advertised online, in local publications, the phone book, or business cards who were in violation of state advertising guidelines for contractors. California Business & Professions (B&P) Code requires contractors to put their license number in all advertisements. Those who are not licensed may do work valued at less than $500 for labor and materials, but their ads must state that they are not a licensed contractor.
Twelve suspects received Notices to Appear (NTA) in court for contracting without a license; eleven face additional charges for illegal advertising. Their court date is set for March 1, 2010. Two other suspects received administrative citations; one for contracting without a license and illegal advertising, and the other for illegal advertising.
One of those suspects receiving an NTA, Michael Bluthardt, 52, of Eureka was taken to the Humboldt County Jail, where he was booked and released. His Butte County trial is set for March 5, 2010. Another suspected phony contractor, Nelson Henry Guy, 68, of Hydesville, is a registered sex offender. Guy was one of those issued an NTA for contracting without a license.
“This operation points out the importance that consumers check to make sure a contractor they hire is state-licensed,” said CSLB Registrar. “Some of these are people you would not want in your home, around your family and valuables.” Since 2005, CSLB has conducted criminal background checks on all new applicants for licenses and those adding to or changing their license classifications.
CSLB provides many helpful consumer publications that can be downloaded or ordered from its Web site www.cslb.ca.gov or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com, or by calling, toll-free 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
CSLB urges consumers to remember the following tips when hiring a contractor:
o Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door.
o Verify the contractor’s license by checking online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com, or via CSLB’s automated phone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752), and ask to see a photo identification to make sure you’re dealing with the correct person
o Don’t pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. There is an exception to this for about two dozen contractors who have special bonds for consumer protection that are noted on the CSLB Web site.
o Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let the payments get ahead of the work.
o Check references, and get at least 3 bids and a written contract before your project begins.
o Contact CSLB if you have a complaint against a contractor.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates about 310,000 contractors and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2008-09, CSLB helped recover nearly $36 million in ordered restitution for consumers.