10 arrested in Lake County sting on unlicensed contractors

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An undercover sting netted suspected unlicensed contractors near the fire zones in Lake County.

Over the past three years, up to 2,000 homes have been destroyed around Lake County in several devastating wildfires, and regulators have been actively pursuing those who approach survivors but lack needed credentials, the board noted in the Nov. 1 announcement.

During the Oct. 23 operation Contractors State License Board and District Attorney’s Office in a home near Copsey Creek, license board investigators invited suspected unlicensed contractors to provide bids for home-improvement jobs ranging from painting, tree removal or trimming, to building a deck.

Ten showed-up and provided undercover investigators bids that ranged from $800 to $4,000. A state-issued contractor license is required for job values over $500 in labor and/or materials.

As a result, these suspects were cited and could be charged with a misdemeanor count of contracting without a license (Business and Professions Code section 7028). The penalty for a first-conviction includes up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

Five of the suspects may also face a misdemeanor charge for illegal advertising (BPC 7027.1). Unlicensed contractors can only advertise if the ad states that they are not a state-licensed contractor and the type of jobs advertised for are worth less than $500.

“Consumers should be sure to take some simple steps before hiring anyone to work in or around their home,” said CSLB Registrar David Fogt in a statement.

He recommended homeowners use CSLB website features "instant license check" and "find my licensed contractor."

The following face charges of contracting without a license:

Jorge Manuel Vieira Sr. of Clearlake, painting and decorating contractor

Jose Angel Gonzalez-Castro of Nice, tree service contractor

Salvador Estrada of Upper Lake, tree service contractor

Elijah Wesley Forrey of Clearlake, tree service contractor

Dave Edward Elliston Sr. of Upper Lake, painting and decorating contractor

Ronald Dean Ridley Sr. of Clearlake Oaks, painting and decorating contractor

Shane Lee Boyd of Nice, tree service contractor

Jesus Tecpoyot Pantaleon of Finley, siding and decking contractor

Ronny Raymond Waddell of Lakeport, painting and decorating contractor

Robert John Rudolph of Kelseyville, siding and decking contractor

Gonzalez-Castro, Estrada, Pantaleon, Waddell and Rudolph also are being charged with illegal advertising.

The suspects were ordered to appear Dec. 11 at Lake County Superior Court in Lakeport.

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