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NY Builder Blamed in Fraud

Friday, April 25, 2014

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A New York residential contractor has been accused of defrauding homeowners out of tens of thousands of dollars for work he never provided or supplies he never ordered over the last 18 months, according to authorities.

Justin Jerge, of Gasport, NY, the owner of JRJ Contracting, is the subject of a lawsuit seeking refunds for consumers and civil penalties for violations of consumer protection laws, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schniederman.

house
© jeffhochstrasser / iStock.com

Justin Jerge, a New York home-improvement contractor, is accused of performing shoddy work and not performing projects in which he accepted advance payments. The home in the stock photo above is not associated with this case.

Prosecutors also seek to bar Jerge from the home improvement industry unless he posts a $200,000 bond.

Jerge did not immediately respond Wednesday (April 23) to a request for comment on the case. A website listed for his company is not active.

Allegations against Contractor

In one instance, Jerge allegedly took more than $50,000 from the parents of a disabled adult who were seeking home improvements to allow them to keep their daughter in their home.

Jerge did not complete the work as promised, and the work he did complete was substandard, prosecutors allege.

In another case, Jerge was said to have accepted a $6,250 payment from a member of the military and never did any work on the project.

New York Attorney General
Ag.ny.gov

“My office will continue to seek out dishonest contractors who defraud innocent New Yorkers and ensure they’re held accountable," said Attorney General Eric Schniederman.

A former customer of Jerge's told a local television station that she paid Jerge more than $68,000 to redo her driveway, renovate her kitchen and cellar, build a new garage and put on an addition. The job dragged on for seven months and problems surfaced, according to Linda Bakowski.

"I found out afterwards that, the town inspector said that there were multiple things wrong with the garage," she told WIVB. "And I didn't know this until just before I fired him. He gave me excuses after excuses."

"The garage was bowing to the right. It didn't have the proper beams across it," she said.

She also said the roof on the addition was leaking. Bakowski said she had to hire another contractor to make the repairs and that cost her another $60,000.

The lawsuit further alleges that Jerge took advance payments from consumers, but repeatedly failed to deposit advance payments from consumers into an escrow account, as required by state law.

Justice Jeremiah J. Moriarty III, of Erie County State Supreme Court, signed a temporary restraining order to freeze Jerge’s bank accounts and prohibit him from accepting any advance payments from consumers, prosecutors report.

Tips for Consumers

“With more and more New Yorkers making improvements to their homes this season, unsuspecting homeowners can easily fall prey to unscrupulous contractors,” Attorney General Schneiderman said in a statement.

“My office will continue to seek out dishonest contractors who defraud innocent New Yorkers and ensure they’re held accountable.”

He provided the following tips for consumers dealing with residential contractors:

  • Never agree to have work done on the spot, especially when potential contractors are door-to-door marketing; determine exactly what you want done, then seek out a qualified contractor;
  • Shop around: get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided;
  • Ask for references: check with the Better Business Bureau, banks, suppliers, and neighbors; always contact any references provided to you;
  • Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed;
  • Do not pay unreasonable advance sums: negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job; never pay the full price up front; and
  • Remember that you have three days to cancel after signing a home improvement contract, but all cancellations must be in writing.

   

Tagged categories: Business matters; Ethics; Government; Renovation; Residential contractors

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