Thursday, July 17, 2014

Attorney General files lawsuit against Jasper County home remodeling firms

(From Attorney General Chris Koster)

Attorney General Chris Koster today took action against 16 home-remodeling companies around the state for defrauding consumers who hired them for repair or remodeling projects.

Complaints about home repair and remodeling are consistently among the top ten complaints received by the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division. There have been 334 complaints this year alone and over 2000 complaints since January 1, 2012. Many of these complaints stem from storm chasers – people who follow severe storms such as those that swept through Missouri in the past several weeks – who stay long enough to collect initial payments from homeowners or their insurance companies but rarely finish the repairs.

The actions announced today affect at least 80 Missouri homeowners who lost nearly $360,000 to unscrupulous contractors.

Koster today filed suit against:

Exterior Home Concepts and owners Donald R. Mayers and Carrie A. Holmes inClay County, alleging that the company took at least $57,000 from 12 consumers whose roofs were damaged by storms. The company convinced consumers to sign over insurance checks to them, but neither completed the repairs nor provided requested refunds.

Jan Johnson, doing business as Alpha Exteriors, in St. Louis County, alleging that Johnson took at least $37,000 from 5 consumers, promising roof repairs after the spring storms of 2012. Johnson took upfront money then did not do the repairs as promised or provide refunds.

Cannon Builders and Remodelers and owner Robert Cannon in St. Charles County, alleging the company took at least $32,000 from 8 consumers, promising home repairs or construction and demanding upfront money. Cannon neither completed the work nor provided refunds.

Finder Construction and owner Douglas Clay Finder in St. Louis County, alleging Finder took at least $29,000 from four consumers and did not complete the work as promised or provided work that was shoddy and substandard according to building codes.

James Oates, doing business as Home Help, in St. Louis County, alleging Oates took at least $26,500 from one consumer who paid $7,000 upfront and a total of $26,500 throughout the course of a basement remodel. Oates did not complete the remodel and left the basement in a condition that it would require more than the original estimate to complete correctly. 
Robert Mason, doing business as Mason Construction, in St. Charles County, alleging that Mason took at least $23,000 from four consumers promising to repair or remodel parts of their homes. Mason either did not complete the work or provided substandard work, and has not provided refunds to consumers.

Gene Skelton in Jasper County, alleging Skelton took at least $21,500 from three consumers to do remodeling and repair. The consumers complained that Skelton performed little work, and work he did perform was substandard. 

Cory Smith, doing business as Switzer Construction, in Boone County, alleging Smith took at least $21,000 from eight consumers and then did not perform the roof and deck replacements and other repairs as promised.

Grace Homes, an Atlanta business that set up shop in St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Webb City after the spring, 2012 storms, alleging the business took at least $17,000 from five consumers. The business took up-front payments but did not provide the promised services.

J&N Construction and owner John Nash, in Jefferson County, alleging that Nash took at least $15,800 from six consumers and either did not complete the repairs he promised or completed them in a substandard fashion.
Ronald Spielman, doing business as St. Clair Windows & Doors, in Cole County, alleging that Spielman took at least $9,000 from two consumers and did not complete the jobs as promised or did substandard window replacement that requires repair.

Yoder Construction and owner Merlin Yoder in Greene County, alleging Yoder took at least $8,000 from a consumer as down payment on a $50,000 job, then stopped working on the project and has not provided a refund.

Paul Kremer, doing business as Kremer Construction, in Cole County, alleging that Kremer took at least $4,000 from two consumers for roofing, gutter and siding replacement and performed little to no work. Kremer pleaded guilty previously to stealing by deceit in Boone County and provided a refund to another consumer.

West County Remodeling and owner Zachary Mikus in St. Charles County, for taking more than $2,900 from a consumer as a down payment on a $5,800 roof repair. Mikus did not perform the roof repair and has not refunded the deposit as requested.

In other actions today, Koster:
Entered into a consent judgment with Cabinet & Interiors and owner Matt Chapman in St. Charles County Circuit Court, after taking upfront money of at least $43,522 from 13 consumers to perform cabinet installation and other home remodeling project in St. Charles and St. Louis counties, and not completing the work as promised.
Entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with Veterans Constructionand owner Michael Friery in St. Louis County, after the company took at least $9,800 from two consumers for roof repair but did not provide the work as promised. Friery has agreed to provide full restitution to the consumers.

In addition, Koster announced results in two criminal cases against Jason Michael Leavyfor home-repair scams in St. Charles County and St. Louis County. In St. Charles County, Leavy pleaded guilty to three counts of Unlawful Merchandising Practices for defrauding three consumers seeking home repairs, and, as a prior and persistent offender, was sentenced to four years on each count to run consecutively, for a total of 12 years in prison. In St. Louis County, Leavy also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of Stealing, Unlawful Merchandising Practices and Financial Exploitation of the Elderly in a similar scam -- taking money upfront for home repairs from five consumers and never doing the work. Leavy failed to show up on multiple occasions for his sentencing hearings in St. Louis County, but is now serving his sentence from the St. Charles County convictions, while awaiting sentencing in his St. Louis County case.

"When consumers are cheated by unscrupulous contractors, my office will step in to help," Koster said. "Unfortunately, consumers must do some homework and be extremely cautious when it comes to hiring individuals for home repair services."

Consumers who have complaints against these, or any other home-repair business should file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office at 800-392-8222, or online.

Koster said consumers should check the references of contractors before signing a contract or providing any partial payment, check with his office and the Better Business Bureau for complaints on contractors, and should never pay in full before the work is completed. Koster noted consumers should particularly be wary of "storm chasers" who appear uninvited at their homes or who email or contact them unexpectedly by phone after storm damage in the area.

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