Sacto 9-1-1
January 23, 2012
Ten caught in sting accused of contracting without a license

One person was arrested and nine others received notices to appear in court during a recent Contractors State License Board sting operation in Amador County.

The undercover operation was conducted Friday at a Pine Grove home by the board's Statewide Investigative Fraud Team and investigators from the Amador County District Attorney's Office.

Investigators, posing as homeowners, sought bids for general construction and painting projects at a multievel house on 7 acres. The 10 people who bid more than the legal threshold of $500 for labor and materials will be required to appear in court for contracting without a license, according to a Contractors State License Board news release. They also face an additional misdemeanor charge for illegal advertising.

State law requires contractors to place their license number in all advertisements. Those who do home improvement jobs valued at less than $500 may advertise, but their advertisements must state they they are not a licensed contractor.

Arrested in Friday's sting was Brian Gross, 48, of Valley Springs. He was previously arrested by the fraud team and Amador County District Attorney's Office in October 2010, and pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of fraudulent use of a contractor license number and one misdemeanor count of failing to purchase workers' compensation insurance for employees. He was sentenced in May 2011 to four years of felony probation, officials said.

In June 2010, the Contractors State License Board revoked Gross' general contractor license for failure to pay administrative citations issued for asking for excessive down payments, failing to secure building permits and other violations of contracting law, according to the news release. State law prohibits asking for or receiving a down payment exceeding 10 percent of the contract price, or $1,000, whichever is less.

Receiving notices to appear for allegedly contracting without a license and illegal advertising are Ruben Cervantes, 44, of Placerville; Kenneth Jerrell McCloud, 65, of Pioneer; Richard Paul Reinoehl, 60, of Pine Grove; Benjamin Joseph Smith, 22, of Pine Grove; James Theo Cerles, 63, of Shingle Springs; Steven David Garrett, 53, of Sutter Creek; and Kenneth Lawrence Griffin, 53, of Pine Grove. All submitted bids for general construction work.

Also receiving notices to appear are Matthew Martin Pederson, 28, of Rancho Cordova, who bid on tree services, and Luis Fernando Leyva-Martinez, 36, of Placerville, who bid on painting work, according to the news release.

All are scheduled for arraignment March 19 in Amador County Superior Court.

Before signing a contract, consumers are advised to check the Contractors State License Board's website at www.cslb.ca.gov or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com to make sure the contractor has a valid license and worker's compensation insurance if the contractor has employees.

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