NBC Undercover: Homewreckers

thugs“You open your home and wallet to contractors. But do you really know who they are? NBC Undercover investigates this underground economy and finds homeowners who are misled and ripped off.”

The original newsreel is no longer available anywhere. Since 2011 the link below has been re-directed to a follow-up story…..CLICK HERE

This episode of NBC undercover shows California’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) failing to shut down unlicensed scam artists! SWIFT is the enforcement division of California’s Contractor’s State Licensing Board (CSLB).

This hour-long episode described California as one of 19 minority States that require contractor licensing, and the only US State conducting sting operations. The program showed dope-smoking felons & registered sex offenders invoiceing over $500 with suspended, stolen, or no license number at all.

After hand-cuffing and questioning some, they were walked off the sting project. However, fleeced consumers have no power to recover damages. The crooks on this episode, all operated as General Contractors, failed to appear at licensing board “civil” hearings, and moved on to exploit others.

Investigators interviewed one contractor on this episode that denied responsibly for installing plumbing pipes, with exposed metal drains tied to an energized 120vac 20A circuit in the shower & bath.

Beyond escorting them off the sting project, it was amazing to learn the CA State licensing board has no subpoena, arrest, or incarceration authority for these repeat offenders.

There is no remedy for home owners that lose everything after contractor and material disappear, except more exploit from unpaid suppliers placing liens against home-owner property.

This episode did not mention that California can prosecute these thugs as felons in declared-disaster areas. This recent legislation was passed in response to home-owner losses from criminal contractors fleecing victims of the 2003 fires in Santa Monica, CA. The first CSLB felony arrests were made in San Diego.

Without State Protection
The public outcry from exploited disaster area victims could have mandated such criminals as felons everywhere, but amazingly legislators have preserved the “civil” safe harbor for the contractor associations, refusing to extend criminal-arrest authority beyond disaster areas.

The moral of this story is the public has no protection beyond disaster areas. Contractor thugs can disappear with deposits, and without paying suppliers. With no real barriers to criminal conduct these thugs know they can exploit more than just alien labor, especially when no home-owner protection exists beyond sting operations in disaster areas.