The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation recently did an undercover sting operation in San Antonio to expose unlicensed electrical and air conditioning contractors.
TDLR investigators invited contractors to a house on the Southwest Side to bid on electrical and air conditioning work.
The KSAT 12 Defenders were invited to participate in the operation and help expose the unlicensed contractors.
Susan Stanford, spokeswoman for the TDLR, said those who hire unlicensed individuals are taking a risk.
"An electrician that doesn't know what he's doing could start a fire in your house,” Stanford said. “(And) could electrocute you."
She said when contractors are licensed, they are assured of having background checks, insurance and the most up-to-date information on their trade.
“Do you want someone with a criminal record coming into your home where perhaps there's only your wife?” Stanford said. “That criminal background check is very, very important.”
Valentine Silvas was one of those targeted by the TDLR. Investigators say he has applied for a Master Electrician license and is a licensed Journeyman, but has not taken the exam. Silvas said he is going to fix that.
"Yes, sir, I am,” Silvas said. “I am really, really trying to."
Bruce Becker was another contractor targeted. He said he was not guilty of a violation because he never bid for the job.
"I informed them I'm not a licensed electrician,” Becker said. “I will not run your guy's 220 line like they want me to do. You have to be a licensed Master Electrician to do what they wanted me to do. And that's in writing, sir. I'm not going to do something I'm not licensed to do. I'm very strict about that."
But in audio recorded during his first visit to scope out the project, he appears to be telling the investigator he is going to do the work.
"(As for) the electrical, you can do the work?” the investigator asks.
“Yes, ma'am, I can," Becker responds.
In all, the TDLR called some 80 contractors to bid on jobs.
Another was Bobby Hernandez. State investigators say Hernandez gave a bid for air conditioning work at the house but is not properly licensed.
“I have a buddy that's licensed," Hernandez said. “I work with a licensed contractor. I go out and do the bids.”
However, he admitted that he had not told that to those seeking the bids.
Hernandez said it was simply a miscommunication.
Stanford said there are penalties for doing electrical and air conditioning work without the proper license.
“Unlicensed electrical work ranges from $500 to $3,000 for the first-time violation,” Stanford said.
These contractors are all under investigation by the TDLR and may receive a notice of violation for unlicensed activity.