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Sting operation uncovers dozens of Utah contractors operating without a license

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- The Utah Department of Commerce recently conducted an undercover sting and found dozens of contractors operating without a license.

Alisha Hadden is among those who have been left frustrated by someone who claimed to be a professional.

Hadden hired a man online to remodel her home. She thought he was a licensed professional, but she was wrong. He over charged, didn't finish the job, and even left damage behind.

"If you look at our beautiful solid walls, there is actually no hookups for the toilet, or for hot and cold running water for the sink,” she said.

Hadden’s new bathroom, along with the rest of her West Valley City home, was supposed to look brand new. But that's not the case after she hired an independent contractor, who didn't have a license.

"It makes me feel like we were taken advantage of,” she said.

Hadden said the man seemed like someone she could trust.

"He was super charismatic, really fun, nice, presented himself well: It's one of the reasons I picked him over a different contractor,” she said.

Mark Steinagel, director of Occupational and Professional Licensing for Utah, said Hadden’s mistake is a common one in the Beehive State.

"We are very trusting here, and so there is a lot of affinity fraud,” he said. “Slowly consumers are learning that, just because you check somebody's credentials doesn't make you a bad person. It's OK to check.”

Hadden’s family spent more than $15,000. Not only did the contractor not finish the job, he made so many mistakes it's going to end up costing another $15,000 to fix the issues.

"We have to pay for things like the tub in the downstairs bathroom to be removed, the tile to be redone, piping to be refitted, electric to be fixed,” Hadden said.

In order to crack down on this type of fraud, the state conducted a two-week sting to catch these unlicensed contractors.

"We know that we can see them advertising online, and that already is them holding themselves out as a licensed contractor: lying to the public,” Steinagel said.

During the sting, a total of 45 contractors were fined in Utah for operating without a license. Half of them then went through the proper channels to get their license, the other half did not.

“One of the biggest things we are finding out now is you can actually call the Department of Professional Licensing and verify individual contractor’s licensing,” Hadden said.

The Department also provides an online tool for verifying licenses, which is available here. 

A number of the contractors who were operating without a license are being prosecuted in court.