Contractor scams are some of the most heartbreaking because of the potential for the scammer to obtain large amounts of money from the victim. About two weeks ago, the NY Attorney General’s office announced the arrest of a Western New York home improvement contractor for “repeatedly pressuring an 88-year-old widow into paying more than $80,000 for home improvements that were never done”, or were so poorly done as to be worthless.
The NY AG says:
Bryan Boone, 47, of Kenmore Avenue in Kenmore, was arraigned before Justice Thomas S. Kolbert in Cheektowaga Town Court for Grand Larceny in the 2nd degree (class C felony). He is being held at the Erie County Holding Center, with bail set at $150,000 cash or $200,000 bond. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
“It is particularly troubling when dishonest home improvement contractors use fear and intimidation to steal from the elderly,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “We will continue to work with local law enforcement to catch contractors who prey on vulnerable senior citizens.”
According to court papers, in October of 2007, Boone, doing business as Urban Residential Maintenance, contacted the victim by phone offering to make inexpensive repairs to her Cheektowaga home. She accepted and over the next seven months Boone made repeated requests for payments and was given a total of 70 checks for $82,158. The homeowner told investigators “When I would complain about how the work was progressing, he would sometimes get very angry and assure me the work was first-rate. As I felt intimidated, I always relented. Similarly, if I questioned a demand for payment, he would sometimes become angry and I would relent.”
The police were alerted to the situation when the contractor tried to cash a check at a local bank, but the teller refused. The contractor then brought his client to the bank and waited outside. The bank manager called the police.
The AG’s office says that the work done on the woman’s home was shoddy and incomplete and caused damage to her property. They also estimate that the labor and materials used were worth no more than $13,000. The contractor also did not obtain permits or provide a contract to the consumer.
So, how can you avoid situations like this? Well, if you live in New York, you can research any contractors that you’re thinking of hiring at the Attorney General’s website. They have a special site just for contractors called www.nyknowyourcontractor.com.
The Website allows users to view substantiated complaints that have been filed with the Attorney General’s Office and read legal judgments against contractors. Consumers can search contractors by name, business name, region, or county. It also has links to state and local consumer agencies, information on how to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office against a home improvement contractor, and what you should do before hiring someone to work on your home.
Even if you don’t live in NY, and let’s face it, most of you do not, you can check out these tips on hiring a contractor. Laws vary from state to state and county to county but it’s still good advice.
Questions about contractors your own state? Check with your Attorney General’s office.
New consumer-protection site targets shady contractors [Consumer Reports]
Attorney General Cuomo Announces Arrest Of Home Improvement Contractor For Scamming Western New York Senior Out Of More Than $80,000 [NY AG]
Know Your Contractor [NY AG]
(Photo: DCvision2006 )