More than a dozen unlicensed contractors face potential criminal charges stemming from what local and state authorities said were attempts to defraud Santa Rosa residents looking to rebuild homes destroyed in October’s wildfires.
In all, 13 unlicensed contractors, all men, were caught up in a sting conducted Jan. 27 at a burned out home in Santa Rosa, where undercover state investigators posed as fire victims looking to rebuild their home, the Contractors State License Board said in a news release Friday.
The suspects were detained by CSLB investigators and released from custody while the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office considers the evidence and decides whether to advance charges, said Rick Lopes, CSLB’s chief of public affairs.
“Those who think they can take advantage of the situation right now are wrong,” District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a news release. “We will continue to work with CSLB to identify and prosecute those who are violating the law.”
The sting started when investigators responded to ads posted on Craigslist offering services for framing, carpentry, electrical work and plumbing for fire victims. Investigators invited workers to a home, where they then bid on jobs, the contractors board said. For the framing job, the submitted bids ranged from $850 to $13,000; for plumbing, bids ranged from $1,500 to $4,500; and for the electrical work, a bid came in at $2,100, the CSLB said.
Home improvement jobs totaling $500 or more must be completed by a contractor certified by the state, and unlicensed workers make it difficult for legitimate contractors to compete for work, said Keith Woods, CEO of the North Coast Builders Exchange, an association that advocates for licensed contractors in Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and Napa counties.
“This is a very common, but sad byproduct of a major disaster,” he said. “It attracts the unscrupulous, whether it’s the people that have been stealing metal and rebar and stuff, or people trying to scam homeowners. It’s a problem when there’s something like this.”
Those detained in the sting were identified by authorities as: Edgar Rogelio Menrano Aparicio, of Rohnert Park; Ted Lawrence Brooks, of Santa Rosa; Adam Daniel Kime, of Fairfield; Charles Joseph Messana, of Windsor; Gerardo Daniel Contreas Medina, of Santa Rosa; Sergey Nosach, of Redwood City; Michael Allen Regan, of Santa Rosa; Jeffrey Edward Reno, of Napa; Kyle Jerry Rexford, of Santa Rosa; Jason Torres, of Rohnert Park; Robert Dale Wisterman, of Santa Rosa; Christian Robert Wolf, of Sebastopol; Dan Ybarra, of Santa Rosa.
The 13 men detained in the sting face the potential felony and misdemeanor charges, said Lopes, the contractors board spokesman.
Reports of unlicensed workers attempting to defraud fire victims or perform shoddy work for low pay is of great concern within the building community, Woods said.
“Without a license, they don’t have to prove that they’re paying workers’ comp, that they’re properly insured, that they have the bonding,” Woods said. “If you’re competing against somebody who’s not following the rules, they can submit significantly lower bids. ... That’s the biggest problem for the industry
“The problem of the homeowners or the victims is the work is not going to be probably of a high quality, and there are so many cases of unscrupulous contractors taking down payments that they’re not allowed to take and heading for the hills.”
Suspects detained in sting
Edgar Rogelio Menrano Aparicio, of Rohnert Park
Ted Lawrence Brooks, of Santa Rosa
Adam Daniel Kime, of Fairfield
Charles Joseph Messana, of Windsor
Gerardo Daniel Contreas Medina, of Santa Rosa
Sergey Nosach, of Redwood City
Michael Allen Regan, of Santa Rosa
Jeffrey Edward Reno, of Napa
Kyle Jerry Rexford, of Santa Rosa
Jason Torres, of Rohnert Park
Robert Dale Wisterman, of Santa Rosa
Christian Robert Wolf, of Sebastopol
Dan Ybarra, of Santa Rosa
Read more business coverage of the North Bay wildfire recovery: nbbj.news/2017fires