For the first time in Utah, a person has been sent to the Utah State Prison for contracting without a license.
On Monday, Ronald W. Woods, 58, Salt Lake City, was sentenced to one year on the class A misdemeanor charge and zero to five years for filing a false tax exempt certificate, a third-degree felony.State licensing regulators were pleased with the prison sentences, which will run concurrently.
"This sends a strong message to people who are violating the law, that our division, law enforcement personnel and the courts are serious about enforcing the laws that govern the construction industry," said David Robinson, director of the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.
While Woods is the first to go to prison, his sentence actually marks the second time someone has been put behind bars for contracting without a license.
Last August, a house painter was sentenced to 75 days in the Salt Lake County Jail and 18 months probation.
Benn Framer, 34, Salt Lake City, pleaded no contest to contracting without a license and must pay more than $8,500 in restitution. At the time, it was the stiffest penalty ever leveled for the misdemeanor charge, the division said.
Framer also faces fines and disciplinary action from the division for doing painting, roofing, plumbing, electrical and carpentry work without a license.
The prison sentences come more than a year after the division expanded its construction investigations unit. Justifying the expansion were new laws subjecting unlicensed contractors to criminal penalties.
As of last July, the division closed 141 cases, including 86 criminal counts. So far this fiscal year, investigators are working on 512 cases and have filed 25 criminal counts.
Woods had a history of violating state contracting laws. At the time he was arrested, he was on parole for previous convictions of contracting without a license. One of his parole conditions was to not conduct contracting work, the division said.
A statement from division investigator Fred Baird said Woods used a false tax exemption number and company name, American Construction and Remodeling, when purchasing materials at a local store. The materials Woods purchased were also of lesser quality than he agreed to use on a construction project, Baird said.
On two jobs, the statement said, Woods left and never returned to finish the project once he had been paid.
3rd District Judge Timothy R. Hanson also fined Woods $2,000 and ordered him to pay full restitution. Woods must also pay more than $8,000 restitution for previous charges.
Because Woods could spend up to five years in prison, the division will not file any action against him, Robinson said.