PARADISE, Calif. - Authorities held a press conference on Friday to discuss an undercover sting operation that was conducted at a burned property on the ridge, that overall led them to 12 suspects.
The Butte County District Attorney’s Office, Paradise Police Department, and California Department of Insurance conducted the two-day undercover sting operation.
Investigators invited suspected unlicensed contractors to a property overlooking Little Butte Creek.
The targets came to the property and gave undercover investigators bids for jobs including fencing, plumbing, concrete and vegetation demolition, and excavation.
A total of nine suspects provided bids ranging from $600 to $25,000.
In California, all home improvement jobs from damage totaling $500 or more in combined labor and material costs must be performed by a licensed contractor.
Punishment includes a fine of up to $5,000 and/or, up to six months in county jail.
Those nine and three other suspects could face a charge of illegal advertising.
The cases are now turned over to the Butte County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey spoke at the press conference.
"We have made it our mission to protect our Camp Fire victims in Butte County from over-reaching unlicensed ‘contractors,’” Ramsey said. “Proactive enforcement of contractor licensing requirements protects our consumers and legitimate contractors alike. Consumers are protected from illegal contracts and poor workmanship, and law-abiding contractors are protected from unfair competition by any who attempt to avoid the law’s requirements."
“While it wasn’t easy for our investigators to identify targets for this operation, we know there are still a substantial number of unlicensed contractors trying to get rebuilding work in the Paradise area,” said CSLB Registrar David Fogt. “That’s why homeowners need to stay on guard and be careful as they look to hire people to help them rebuild.”
Homeowners take a huge risk when they hire unlicensed contractors. Most are not properly insured and likely don’t have the skills or knowledge to perform the work.
“When contractors operate without workers’ compensation insurance or a proper license they not only are breaking the law, they are putting their workers and homeowners in jeopardy,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Unlicensed contractors who prey on wildfire survivors for a quick buck need to know we will stay vigilant, and we will catch you.”
The suspects were either booked into the Butte County Main Jail or issued citations that are scheduled to appear Friday, March 20, 2020, at the Butte County Superior Court.