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Sacramento, Calif.- Jose German Lepe Puentes thought he was just going to give a homeowner a bid for concrete work at a house in North Auburn this week.

Instead, the 35 year-old from Elk Grove wound up with a trip to jail after posing as a licensed contractor during an undercover sting conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Puentes was one of seven arrested during the operation, conducted on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 by CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) in cooperation with the Placer County Sheriff’s Department, and Placer County District Attorney’s Office. The Amador County District Attorney’s Office participated as part of a California Department of Insurance grant to prosecute workers’ compensation insurance violations in Amador, Calaveras and Placer Counties.

During the operation SWIFT investigators posed as property owners, inviting suspected illegal operators to bid on home improvement projects such as concrete, fencing, awning, and tree trimming. Six phony contractors who bid more than $500 for their jobs were arrested and received a “Notice to Appear” in court to answer misdemeanor charges of contracting without a license and using illegal advertisements.

California law requires that all home improvement projects valued at more than $500 for labor and materials be performed by a licensed contractor and that contractor license number be in all ads. Those who are not licensed may perform work valued at less than $500, but their ads must state that they are not a licensed contractor.

Puentes could face a felony charge because he not only contracted without a license, he allegedly tried to pass himself off as a licensed contractor by providing CSLB investigators with a license number issued to his supposed brother-in-law. PuentesÕ vehicle was also towed.

“This sting highlights for consumers the importance of making sure they only hire licensed contractors,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “Just because someone says they’re licensed doesn’t mean they are.” Licensed contractors are required by law to carry a plastic pocket license with them. Consumers should ask to see that, as well as a picture I.D. in order to verify that the names match.

The following suspects who received notices to appear are scheduled for arraignment on June 21, 2011, in Placer County Superior Court in Roseville:

Jose German Lepe Puentes, 35
All We Haul
Elk Grove
Concrete
Contracting without a license, illegal advertising, fraudulent use of incorrect license number (Arrested and booked into Placer County Jail)

Jesus Lopez Sandoval, 31
Sacramento
Fencing
Contracting without a license, illegal advertising

Melvin Aguilar, 29
Spring Clean Up
Auburn
Tree Service
Contracting without a license, illegal advertising

Francisco Rossell, 44
RossellÕs Maintenance
Auburn
Tree Service
Contracting without a license, illegal advertising

Phillip Farmer, 61
FarmerÕs Handyman
Auburn
General Building Concrete
Contracting without a license, illegal advertising

Ilya Sergeyevich Chernyshov, 27
Best Home Remodeling
Sacramento
Awnings
Contracting without a license, illegal advertising

Juan Luis Ramos, 32
Ramos Gardening
North Highlands
Tree Service
Contracting without a license, illegal advertising

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on the CSLB website or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). You can also sign up for CSLB e-mail alerts at www.cslb.ca.gov. CSLB licenses and regulates California’s more than 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2009-10, CSLB helped recover nearly $42 million in ordered restitution for consumers

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