New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Files Complaints Against Two Contractors, Alleging Fraud in Connection with Rebuilding and Repair of Sandy-Damaged Homes
released on August 31, 2017
found in newsletter: August 2017
NEWARK – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs have filed two complaints alleging that contractors doing business along New Jersey’s coast used deceptive practices to obtain more than $1.3 million in federal relief funds from 12 homeowners who sought to have their damaged homes rebuilt, elevated and/or repaired after Superstorm Sandy.
The complaints, filed separately in Superior Courts in Monmouth and Ocean counties, allege that CRA Construction and Home Elevations (“CRA”), and TMB Services, LLC (“TMB”), along with the companies’ owners, violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, the Contractors’ Registration Act, the Contractor Registration Regulations, the Home Elevation Regulations, the Regulations Governing Home Improvement Practices and the Regulations Governing General Advertising.
Specifically, CRA and TMB allegedly took money from consumers, which included Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (“RREM”) funds, to renovate, rebuild and/or elevate Sandy-damaged homes and then failed to begin work and/or abandoned unfinished projects without returning for weeks, months or at all, according to the complaints.
“The ongoing heartbreak of New Jersey residents displaced by Sandy should not be made worse by the illegal actions of unscrupulous contractors,” said Attorney General Porrino. “We will continue to pursue any and all allegations of contractor fraud, especially those relating to Sandy and the misuse of federal funds.”
“The Division remains committed to rooting out incidents of fraud and substandard work among those home improvement contractors who received federal funds to repair and elevate storm-damaged homes,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Victims of Superstorm Sandy deserve better than becoming re-victimized by deceptive contractors.”
The consumers identified in the complaints received money from the RREM Program, administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, to pay for construction work on Sandy-damaged homes. The RREM Program is the state’s largest rebuilding initiative.
“It is unconscionable that contractors would deceive homeowners that have been impacted by Sandy and are trying to rebuild their lives, said New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Charles A. Richman. “DCA remains committed to working with the Attorney General’s office to send a strong message to anyone who thinks they can get away with cheating the system.”
The complaint against CRA, affiliated company CRA Site Lawn & Land Development Inc. (“CRA Site Development”) and three individuals – Christopher M. Aldarelli, Paul J. Logan and Steven P. Pisano – listed as owners of the companies, allege that CRA was not registered as a home elevation contractor when it advertised home-elevation services?. The complaint also alleges that the businesses failed to timely perform home improvement and/or home elevation work after receiving RREM funds or consumer payments, failed to correct substandard work, imposed unjustified cost increases on displaced consumers and failed to complete work. In addition, CRA Site Development allegedly violated a 2015 consent order with the Division in which the company promised to cease deceptive business practices. Aldarelli is also alleged to have not disclosed a criminal conviction as required on the CRA and CRS Site Development’s initial and renewal applications for home improvement contractor registration.
Other allegations include:
Failure at various times to provide consumers with copies of the certificate of commercial general liability insurance required of a home improvement contractor.
Failure to include the state-mandated “Notice to Consumer” cancellation language and the toll-free telephone numbers provided by the Division for consumers making inquiries concerning contractors.
Failure to secure proper building and construction permits.
Failure to respond to consumers’ calls and texts regarding the status of the projects.
The complaint against TMB and its owner, Tracey McClain, alleges that the company accepted RREM funds and failed to begin and/or complete the home improvements and/or home elevation projects, failed to provide timely written notice of delays in construction and failed to repair damage caused during construction.
Other allegations include:
Beginning a home elevation project before requisite permits were issued.
Failure to remove debris from a consumer’s home and clean the job site, which caused a municipal Notice of Violation to be issued against the consumer’s property.
Failure to pay a subcontractor, which resulted in a lien placed on the consumer’s property.
Abandoning jobs and leaving consumers’ homes uninhabitable.
CRA is registered as a for profit company in New Jersey. TMB, based out of Louisiana, is registered as a foreign limited liability company in the State.
Both complaints seek consumer restitution and a permanent ban on the defendants owning, operating or managing any business that performs home improvements, including home elevations, within New Jersey.
Investigators Joseph Iasso, Brittany Kieran and Katelyn Robertello of the Division’s Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigations.
Deputy Attorney General Russell M. Smith Jr. of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, is representing the State in the action against CRA. Deputy Attorney General Mark E. Critchley of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, is representing the State in the action against TMB.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.
Original Press Release