Seven people were arrested in a sting operation aimed at curbing illegal contractors attempting to do business with Tea Fire victims.

The suspects, like many legitimate contractors looking for business in the wake of the disaster, had been advertising in newspapers, flyers, the Internet, and some had been the focus of complaints to the Contractor’s State License Board, which conducted the sting in conjunction the Santa Barbara Police Department and the county District Attorney’s Office.

Authorities set up shop in a property on Coyote Road and arranged for the alleged illegal contractors to come to the property to give bids. They did and, after committing violations, were arrested by police.

All seven were arrested on felony charges for bidding to perform contractor work without a license in a declared disaster area. Many also were arrested for requiring an excessive down payment.

The list of those arrested for advertising and contracting without a license and for requesting an excessive down payment:

Saul Aguilar, 56, Santa Barbara.

Kevin Bermudes, 31, Santa Barbara

Andrew Poulin, 20, Santa Barbara.

Oscar Rosales, 46, Santa Barbara.

Joseph Vimarco, 30, Santa Barbara, also arrested for alleged possession of heroin.

Heriberto Torres, 46, Ventura.

Elfega Ochoa, 61, of Goleta, arrested solely for advertising and contracting without a license.

Authorities suggest people get at least three licensed bids for contract work, and to check references and verify the identity of the contractor. They also recommend not paying more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less. To verify the license status with the State Contractors License Board, call (800) 321-2752.


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