Contractor Scams 88 Year-Old Out Of More Than $80,000

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 )

Comments

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  1. So, remember — it’s not just Wall Street out there trying to suck up your retirement nest egg. Buyer beware! And make sure your elderly relatives/neighbors are not falling for these scams!

  2. Mfalconieri says:

    just shot him, now he is wasting OUR money by being put in jail.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      @Mfalconieri: Shooting them is relatively quick (well, unless you shoot them in the kneecaps and let them bleed for a while.) I proposed bringing back crucifixion as punishment for preying on the elderly in the “Granny wire me money” post last week. I still think it’s a good idea.

  3. am84 says:

    There’s a special circle in hell for those who prey on the elderly. He’ll get his eventually!

    • crashfrog says:

      @am84: I’m pretty sure there’s no such place (except in Norway.) Could we prosecute and punish him in this lifetime, please?

  4. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I think contractor scams are going to be increasing in the next few years. With an unstable real estate market, people are holding on to their homes and are remodeling, instead of moving into bigger/newer homes.

  5. bsalamon says:

    holmes on homes to the rescue?

    • Quilt says:

      @bsalamon: I really hope Holmes is inspiring the newest breed of contractor. Good worksmanship and solid ethics go a long way. I suppose the temptation to get the quick buck is too big though, plus many contractors just aren’t that skilled at their job. Same with any industry I suppose.

      • Eilonwynn says:

        @Quilt: He isn’t doing any more new episodes for “Holmes on Holmes” but is instead focusing on creating products (including houses) in his own name – but more interestingly, he’s working with the Ontario Legislature to tighten up the laws instead – a thoroughly different type of “inspiration.” That being said, many contractors in the area Holmes’ shows were shot DO NOT like him.

        • mariospants says:

          @Eilonwynn: I doubt that it’s “many” – except that possibly contractors might feel that they’re being painted with the same dark paint. Mike Holmes rocks and I hope starts making more episodes but from my understanding he never intended to be the star of his show, only to convince HGTV that such a show was necessary.

          • econobiker says:

            @bsalmon:

            I think that “many contractors just aren’t that skilled at their job.” is a fair statement since most of these guys get into the field because they do NOT want to study or read up on how to do things better.

            Or contractors hire subcontractors on price alone which ends up with guys with dubious citizenship and questionable language ablities doing the work. If you ever what the house flipping shows you will see this happen often…

            BTW- Holmes on Homes rocks but who could actually afford the quality he provides…

  6. shorty63136 says:

    Preying on old people is just the WORST, man. Seriously.

    I hope they liquidate his assets and this lady gets every dime of her money back.

  7. plutonyum says:

    It’s sort of bizarre that there aren’t more widely-known review sites online for contractors. It’s nice to see that NY has a service for their residents; where I live, it seems the main site I keep finding myself on is ServiceMagic, which is a clearly profit/referral-driven site, and I am wary of the reviews on there for that reason.

    Until there’s a reputable database, I guess the best policy is the old fashioned “ask your friends and neighbors” method.

  8. AD8BC says:

    Capital punishment — not just for murderers anymore.

  9. Toof_75_75 says:

    What a bastard…These kinds of people really are in close contention for the most terrible humans alive.

    It’s a shame her family or someone didn’t help her or tell her that >$80k to this guy was BS…

    • ionerox says:

      @Toof_75_75: It’s sad that it took a bank manager to step in and get involved. Where was this woman’s family, friends and neighbors to help out and keep an eye on what was going on?

    • dahlink_natasha says:

      @Toof_75_75: There’s a chance that she may be the only one in her family left. Children die sometimes before their parents do, or she could have been childfree. If she was married, there’s a good chance her husband could have already passed on. And I can tell you that at least in my experience, families can be accidents of DNA more than people guaranteed to be in your corner.

    • dahlink_natasha says:

      @RandomHookup: I agree completely with this.

  10. …contractors…

    no news here. =/

    • lodigr says:

      @discounteggroll: Hey now!

      My father is a contractor and wouldn’t do this kind of thing. Whatever field a criminal personality is in they will find a way to rip off vulnerable people.

  11. warf0x0r says:

    Call Mike Holmes

    [tlc.discovery.com]

    • Eilonwynn says:

      @warf0x0r: As stated above – The statement is that he’s not doing any more “holmes on homes” episodes, sadly, but is working on legislative changes in that industry within Ontario

  12. I speak Jive. says:

    I’m REALLY not trying to be a smart-ass here, but is there something about being elderly that makes you MORE deserving of sympathy?

    I just find the phrase “vulnerable senior citizen” offensive. I don’t think being a senior makes you vulnerable- just because she’s 88 doesn’t mean she’s senile, or that she shouldn’t have known better. I get the feeling people wouldn’t be as outraged if the victim was 32 or 42.

    My grand is 89 and try to scam him and you’re likely to get a backside full of buckshot…

    • redxmagnum says:

      @Skelow73: I have worked in retail for a long time and it has destroyed my complete trust in the elderly. For every one truly naive old person, there are two old people who will scam you faster than you can say, “Cup of tea and some Lorna Doones, Gramma?”

      That being said, I do feel really bad for her. Should she have known better? Probably. Thing is, a 32 year old has a better chance of recovering from such a thing happening. At 88, her money making prospects aren’t all that great. Her fixed income is now drastically reduced and there’s just about fuck all that she can do about it.

    • ediebeale says:

      @Skelow73: Obviously, each elderly person is different, but an elderly person is less likely to have people in their lives living with them to warn them against such a scammer, and also cannot just go back to work and rebuild their wealth. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Some people are just more vulnerable, and more deserving of our compassion. No one deserves to be taken advantage of.

      • RandomHookup says:

        @ediebeale: Throw in dementia, loss of physical mobility, loss of the spouse who always handled this, loneliness, physical intimidation and you have someone who can be taken advantage of. When they have big bank accounts, they are prime prey which is why kids and the handicapped don’t get targeted as often.

        • Roclawzi says:

          @RandomHookup: It’s the helplessness feeling that’s really tough. I do a good bit of plumbing work on the side, and I got word from a neighbor about another neighbor who is around 80 and hired someone to fix a leaky drain on her kitchen sink. Her husband had passed years earlier and she really had no idea what was involved, and the person she hired replaced the tailpipe out of the sink and charged her 150 dollars for it. The call I got was because she had called the same person when her dishwasher started backing up and filling with dirty, soap water…the original guy hadn’t run the hose that goes from the dishwasher to the tailpipe right. It took me 15 seconds to fix, I refused any offer of payment (that can’t possibly count as work to me). I did stick around because I was more than a little annoyed that she paid 150 (oh, but that included the 4 dollar part!!!) for what was at BEST 25 dollars worth of work, though even I charge for 50 for the first hour because otherwise it’s really not worth going. When the other guy showed up I met him on the lawn and told him to go home, that it was fixed. He insisted he gets paid 100 bucks for coming out. He was not licensed, he did not work for a licensed plumber, he was just doing it on the sly, like I do. I told him he wasn’t getting it, and he threatened to call the police, I told him to call the police. Obviously, he didn’t call the police and he didn’t get paid, but the woman he fleeced didn’t have any idea of how minor the problem she had was, all she knew was that she was getting water everywhere and couldn’t stop it. She was scared and there are plenty of people willing to take advantage of that.

  13. justbychance says:

    Angies list…no?

    • wgrune says:

      @loogee:

      Oldsters tend to avoid computers and the this internet fad like the plague. My grandparents still have a rotary telephone where you have to pick up the entire phone and hold it to your ear and talk into the separate piece. Oh, and no answering machine. So if i suggested Angies List they would probaly look at me like I am insane.

  14. BfloAnonChick says:

    Oh, Buffalo. Why are you only in the news when the news is bad?

  15. frari489 says:

    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.

    Now that is a good sounding bank. I wonder which one it was?

  16. akacrash says:

    Alternate consumerist headline:

    Bank of New Amsterdam refuses to cash your check, calls police on you!

    Here’s his story. Bryan Boone is a contractor in NY, when he attempted to cash a customer’s check, the bank refused. He went to the customer’s house and brought the kindly 80 y/o woman back with him to assure the authenticity of the check! That’s the point where Bank of New Amsterdam called the police on him!

  17. wickedpixel says:

    Props to the bank teller who figured out something fishy was going on.

  18. Marshfield says:

    I have that Makita cordless drill in the lead picture. It’s a good drill with great balance but the batteries don’t last very long.

  19. Roclawzi says:

    I’m sorta curious as to what sort of work she was having done that he could have put 13k materials and labor into it without getting any of it right. I don’t doubt the details at all, I’m just curious.

  20. If they began hanging these people maybe it would curb this kind of scam. Or at least punch them in the face. Hell, I’ll punch this “contractor” in his face for free.

  21. SnakesSolids says:

    I have a very small computer repair business. And I feel bad just charging more than twenty bucks to elderly folks for repairs.

  22. LifeSpanExpert says:

    Thank you so much for elder scams a priority.

    Our mission here at “Saving Our Parents” is to share solutions regarding elder scams. Our “just released” DVD entitled, “Saving our Parents” is being used as a training video for families, health care professionals, caregivers, hospital staff and government agencies throughout the world and won the 2007 Silver National Mature Media Award for best in educational materials concerning older adults. Topics range from crooked conservators to nursing home neglect, caregiving and financial scams,physical abuse and more. Experts are featured throughout the film to provide solutions to this burgeoning epidemic.

    Hosted and narrated by Ed Asner (Mary Tyler Moore Show), and featuring LAPD Police Chief William Bratton and Los Angeles Director of Public Health, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, “Saving Our Parents” is a documentary that will help protect and educate our public servants, older adults and their adult children about safe and healthy aging.

    “One elderly person is victimized every 2.7 minutes.” By allowing me to post on your site, you are assisting in our mission to:

    Prevent a million elders from becoming victimized
    Raise funds for Alzheimer’s
    Inspire & empower one million families to care for their loved ones in their golden years

    Please take a moment to visit our website: http://www.savingourparents.com to view clips of our DVD.

    With gratitude for all you do,

    Dorothy Breininger, Producer, Saving our Parents, and
    President, Delphi Center for Organization, Inc.

    Debby Bitticks, Producer, Saving our Parents, and
    CEO, Delphi Health Products, Inc.
    SavingOurParents.com

  23. RedwoodFlyer says:

    I like my idea best (though, I’ll admit, I have a slight bias lol): Do something that’ll require him needing a blood transfusion, and replace the unit of blood with a bag of Grenadine.

  24. mariospants says:

    I’m curious: if the bank manager hadn’t intervened (let’s say the guy just continually dumped the checks into his chequing or savings account and maybe even paid the taxes on it) would he ever have gotten caught???

    • @mariospants: Probably not. It took an eagle eyed and suspicious bank employee to do the right thing instead of looking the other way. Sad when you think about it: That this “contractor” may have been observed by other bank employees and ignored because they did’nt want to get involved.

      • econobiker says:

        @BeFrugalNotCheap: No. For the reason people get bogus cashiers checks from Nigeria, deposit the checks, and then turn around and get a new live, cashiers check to send back to Nigeria with out anyone asking- because bank employees don’t care…