MURRIETA — Investigators with the Contractors State License Board arrested 19 suspected unlicensed contractors in Murrieta last week and had a 20th man deported, officials said last week.
Murrieta police helped investigators with the board’s Fraud Team conduct a sting operation around the city by posing as homeowners and inviting suspected unlicensed contractors to bid on a variety of home improvement projects, including painting, flooring, tile, concrete, landscaping, fencing, iron fencing and cabinets.
By law, any contractor hiring out for work that costs more than $500, which includes materials and labor, must be licensed by the state.
Eighteen of the 19 suspects arrested received notices to appear in court in January to answer misdemeanor charges.
The potential sentence for contracting without a license and illegal advertising is six months in jail and/or a $500 fine, spokesperson Venus Stromberg said.
Bin Zhuo Zhou, 45, of Arcadia, was jailed on an outstanding $40,000 arrest warrant.
Zhou is a former licensed contractor who is facing felony charges of grand theft and diversion of construction funds, Stromberg said.
Zhou has a long history of complaints against him to the board, Stromberg said.
The Attorney General’s Office has been asked to revoke his license, which expired in February, Stromberg said.
Another man, who was not cited with the others, is a convicted felon in the country illegally and after he quoted an investigator a charge of $7,000 for iron work, investigators identified themselves but he ran off.
He was caught soon after and turned over to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, Stromberg said.
Residents should always ensure any contractors they use are licensed.
They should hesitate to take up an offer by someone going door-to-door and can verify the contractor’s license by going to http://www.cslb.ca.gov.
Residents should also never pay a deposit of more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, unless there is a specific sort of license given to about 24 contractors in the state, who are noted on the board site.
Hiring an unlicensed contractor could leave a resident open to lawsuits in case of injury and with no recourse in case of shoddy work, Stromberg said.