California undercover operation snares suspected unlicensed contractors in Sutter County

Eleven unlicensed contractors could now face criminal charges and thousands of dollars in fines after they were snared in an undercover operation in Sutter County that state officials said is aimed at protecting consumers and employees.

California’s Contractors State License Board conducted the sting over two days last month in Yuba City. Suspected unlicensed contractors were invited to submit proposals for various construction projects at a specified location.

The contractors who unknowingly participated in the sting submitted bids that surpassed the legal threshold of $500 for contracting without a license, according to a news release from the license board.

State officials said the unlicensed contractors submitted bids ranging from $1,000 for painting to $13,500 for concrete work. California law prohibits bidding or contracting for construction work that exceeds $500 in value, including labor and supplies.

The 11 people accused of wrongdoing were served notices to appear in criminal court and could face legal repercussions that include fines and possibly jail time.

The license board conducted statewide stings and sweeps earlier this summer targeting unlicensed contractors, including operations in Sacramento, Stanislaus and Fresno counties, which led to 90 people cited.

CSLB Registrar David Fogt said contracting without a valid contractor’s license is a misdemeanor in California with potential fines of up to $15,000 and incarceration.

“CSLB is committed to enforcing license requirements to ensure consumers are protected from unlicensed individuals who have not met experience requirements and do not have workers’ compensation insurance for employees,” Fogt said in the news release.

The 11 people cited also could face additional charges for illegal advertisements, state officials said. Licensed contractors are required to include their license number on all business-related materials, such as advertisements, vehicles and business cards. Not complying with this requirement could lead to a $1,000 fine for a first-time offense.

Four of those who were cited also asked for an excessive down payment before they would start the work, state officials said. Contractors in California are strictly limited to requesting no more than 10% of the home improvement project cost or $1,000, whichever is less. Violating this provision also is a misdemeanor offense, and a conviction could lead to fines of up to $5,000 or one year in jail.

The license board’s Investigative Fraud Team coordinated the undercover operation with Sutter County District Attorney’s Office investigators and the Yuba City Police Department.

State officials asked anyone who wants more information or to report suspected unlicensed contractor activities to call the CSLB at 800-321-2752 visit its website at