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CSLB’s Compton Sting Shows Phony Landscapers Sprout in Drought

Homeowners installing drought-tolerant yards urged to check license before choosing contractor

CSLB #15-19

April 30, 2015

SACRAMENTO – As the California drought grows more severe, more homeowners are looking to replace their grass lawns with water-efficient landscaping or synthetic turf. However, a sting operation conducted by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) this week in Compton confirmed how unlicensed contractors are looking to cash in on the trend toward less-thirsty yards.

Eight citations for illegal contracting were issued during the April 29, 2015 operation, including one man who gave CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) investigators a $10,000 estimate to install synthetic grass to replace the lawn. That bid far exceeded the $500 limit for combined labor and material costs set by California law before a CSLB-issued contractor’s license is required.

The phony landscaper was cited for unlicensed contracting (Business and Professions Code section 7028) and illegal advertising (Business and Professions Code section 7027.1). Seven other individuals who gave bids for other home improvement projects were cited on the same misdemeanor charges.

“We’ve noticed more unlicensed contractors offering to install drought-tolerant landscapes since the state’s water shortage became severe, and we expect much more of this activity,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi A. Christenson. “Homeowners really need to watch out for illegal operators who are trying to compete with professional, CSLB-licensed C-27 Landscaping contractors.” Christenson urged anyone who is considering a landscaping project to first visit CSLB’s website to confirm the person’s license status.

SWIFT investigators mostly used business cards and advertising flyers to create a list of suspected unlicensed contractors. Posing as homeowners, investigators sought estimates for tree removal, painting, concrete driveway and walkway, and laminate flooring installation, in addition to the synthetic turf coverage for the front yard. California Department of Insurance officers assisted during the sting.

One suspect was taken to jail after investigators discovered there was an active $25,000 domestic violence warrant for his arrest. The man also had been caught in a CSLB sting operation in 2014; that court case is pending.

Five of the suspects also received citations from a Compton code enforcement officer for failing to have a city business license. Suspects are scheduled to appear on June 30 and July 1, 2015, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, 200 West Compton Blvd., Compton, CA 90220. (MAP

COMPTON

SUSPECT’S NAME
CITY OF RESIDENCE

LICENSE
CLASSIFICATION

ALLEGED
VIOLATIONS

Robert Lee Edwards
Compton

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

Elias Rosas Aguilar
Compton

C-61/D-49 – Tree Service

Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

Oscar Adrian Ravelo
Cypress

C-27 – Landscaping

Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

Edy Rolando Lopez-Palacios
Los Angeles

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

Claudia D. Magana Chavez
Wilmington

C-8 – Concrete

Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

Julio A. Rodriguez-Murcia
North Hills

C-33 – Painting and Decorating

Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

Francisco Hernandez
Los Angeles

C-15 – Flooring and Floor Covering

Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

Julio Ruben Chavez Gomez
Chino Hills

C-61/D-49 – Tree Service

Contracting without a license,
Illegal advertising

CSLB encourages consumers to always “Check The License First” by visiting www.cslb.ca.gov or calling its toll-free automated line: 800.321.CSLB (2752). Also, visit CSLB’s website for tips about how to hire a contractor and to sign up for CSLB Email Alerts.

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. CSLB licenses and regulates 290,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2013-14, CSLB helped recover nearly $51 million in ordered restitution for consumers.

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