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California task force cracks down on unlicensed building contractors

July 09, 2012|By Marc Lifsher
  • A suspected unlicensed contractor caught in a 2008 sting, similar to an operation announced by state officials on Monday.
A suspected unlicensed contractor caught in a 2008 sting, similar to an… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

SACRAMENTO -- A surprise sweep for unlicensed building contractors has resulted in 104 enforcement actions by a multi-agency state task force.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Monday that the sweep hit off-the-books operators in 11 counties on June 20 and 21. Investigators carried out the enforcement actions in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties as well as in Alameda, Butte, El Dorado, Kern, Monterey, Santa Clara and Yolo counties.

"Operation Underground took aim at 'off the books' activity of unscrupulous contractors allegedly operating illegally or without proper (insurance) coverage for their workers," Jones said.

The sweeps looked for contractors who were not licensed by the Contractors State License Board and who did not carry legally required workers' compensation insurance policies. Agents of the state Employment Development Department checked to see whether employers paid unemployment insurance and withheld other payroll taxes.

Most unlicensed contractors work for cash only and offer cut-rate prices because they don't comply with numerous state wage and safety laws.

"Participants in the state's underground economy are harmful to everyone," said license board registrar Steve Sands. "Legitimate licensed contractors are being underbid and struggle because of these illegal business practices."

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