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March 2, 2006

L&I teams target fraudulent contractors, electricians

TUMWATER — Working evenings and weekends, six new employees of the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) are canvassing the state for contractors and electricians who are ignoring registration and licensing laws and gaining an unfair competitive advantage.

“Legitimate contractors and electricians who provide protection to consumers with bonding and insurance and licenses complain to us that they get underbid by those who don’t obey the law,” said Carl Hammersburg, manager of L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Compliance Program. “Our six new contractor- and electrical-compliance officers are another tool in our anti-fraud program as they confront unregistered and unlicensed businesses.”

The three contractor-compliance inspectors will move throughout the state, but concentrate particularly along the Interstate 5 corridor between Bellingham and Vancouver. They will focus solely on the underground economy — that is, contractors who are not registered and who also may be ignoring industrial-insurance and job-safety laws.

Similarly, the three electrical-compliance officers will focus exclusively on reducing the effects of the underground economy. They will work with local inspectors and city jurisdictions to find unlicensed electrical contractors, uncertified electricians and those who fail to obtain required electrical permits. They will also make referrals to other L&I programs for violations of general-contracting, industrial-insurance and job-safety laws.

The electrical-compliance officers will be based in Tukwila, Spokane and Vancouver, but will follow leads and referrals to any part of the state.

“Fraud takes its toll on honest business men and women, particularly small businesses that sometimes rely on the next successful bid to keep the business going,” Hammersburg said. “Honest businesses struggle under unfair competition, and we at L&I have the will and the means to combat fraud.”

Hammersburg said anyone with information about unregistered contractors or unlicensed electricians should call L&I’s fraud hotline at 1-888-811-5974.

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For media information: Cheryl Moore, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-5414 or chem235@LNI.wa.gov, or visit the L&I News and Media Center at www.LNI.wa.gov/News.

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