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Good Samaritan California Contractors Facing Jail Time

San Mateo law enforcement officials, the California Department of Insurance and the Contractors State License Board have been zealous in their efforts to help prevent victims of the San Bruno disaster from being exploited, but they may have over-stepped their authority in the cases of two California men.

The two men have been charged and are facing the possibility of prison for trying to help victims of the San Bruno explosion. Each of the men was charged with violating state contracting laws.

One of the men was charged with contracting without a license in a disaster zone, a felony, and advertising without a license and operating without workers' compensation insurance, both misdemeanors. The other man was charged with failure to have workers' compensation insurance for an employee.

Both men argue that they were simply trying to help, neither were paid for any work they did, nor did they request payment. They were simply trying to help and happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The first man, who owns a glass company and was driving his truck through a neighborhood to visit a friend, explained that a homeowner who needed help flagged him down. The homeowner had a broken window and asked the accused to fix it.

The second man was spotted in the neighborhood with his work van while he was helping a friend move into her house. He likewise argues that he was not trying to get work or get paid, he was simply trying to help a friend.

Although they both admit that they did not have the proper insurance, in neither case does it seem that the men were trying to exploit anyone and, perhaps, law enforcement officials may have been looking in the wrong direction.

Source: San Francisco Examiner, "San Bruno explosion contracting fraud alleged," Shaun Bishop, 5 Jan 2011

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