SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Investigators say men posing as legitimate mechanics are ripping off thousands of Californians every year.

CBS13 was in the area when a state undercover sting operation was going down.

“I’m just trying to get answers. Are you operating as a mechanic without a license?” we asked a man accosted by investigators.

State investigators with the Bureau of Automotive Repair accused the man of advertising auto repair services on Craigslist without a license.

“Do you see this as being illegal or no?” we asked.

He refused to talk about the allegation.

Investigators say unlicensed mechanics are a growing problem. The bureau says they handle about 17,000 cases a year of both illegal auto repair and illegal smog check cases by unlicensed mechanics across the state.

“Well one they’re not permitted, they’re not doing it legally,” said business owner Lee Norman.

Norman has been running a legal mechanic repair business for more than two decades now. He posts his state certification clearly on the wall.

“It really affects us all, you know,” Norman said.

Norman says that those accused of running unlicensed repair businesses not only hurt certified business owners, but tax payers, too.

State investigators say if the repairman is caught again without a license, he could face prosecution.

“My guys are legitimate. They get payroll taxes taken out,” Norman said.

The suspect in Thursday’s sting was very cooperative with state investigators and was only given a warning – but he was told to get a license.

We gave the man an opportunity to tell his side of the story, but he closed the door on us.

State investigators say if the repairman is caught again without a license, he could face prosecution.

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