Attorney General Cuomo Announces Arrest Of Home Improvement Contractor For Scamming Western New York Senior Out Of More Than $80,000
BUFFALO, N.Y. (September 25, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today 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 done well below industry standards.
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.”
Law enforcement became aware of the case when Boone went to a local bank and tried to cash the 71st check. When the teller initially declined to cash the check, Boone brought the victim to the bank while he waited outside. When the victim tried to cash her check to Boone the bank manager called the Cheektowaga Police Department which then contacted the Attorney General’s office.
According to the complaint, all of the work Boone did was careless and incomplete. For example, instead of installing drain tile around the entire basement floor, which is one of the jobs Boone was paid to do, he did not touch an area that runs about nine-feet along the base of the front wall. As a result, water is coming onto the basement floor, which is just what the drain installation was supposed to prevent. In the course of the drain job, Boone’s sloppy work also resulted in stones from fresh concrete adhering permanently to the floor.
Independent experts who reviewed Boone’s work at the request of the Attorney General’s office declared it to be grossly substandard and of little value to the homeowner. They estimated the cost of labor and materials to be no more than $11,000 to $13,000.
According to the complaint, besides shoddy and incomplete work, Boone also failed to meet the legal requirements for home repair work, including obtaining the proper permits, providing a written contract to the consumer, and depositing payments into a trust account. Additionally, he has ignored requests from the homeowner to return any of her money, including $3,555 for an awning he never provided, and for an accounting of how he spent all of her payments to him.
Bryan Boone and his company, Urban Residential Maintenance, are now listed on www.nyknowyourcontractor.com, the Attorney General’s Website that helps consumers avoid home improvement scams and dishonest contractors. 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.
Attorney General Cuomo strongly encourages all New Yorkers to visit www.nyknowyourcontractor.com before hiring a contractor for any home improvement or repair.
“Elderly New Yorkers are more likely to own older homes that tend to need more repairs," said Lois Aronstein AARP State Director. "Unfortunately, too many older homeowners fall victim to contractor scams. Thanks to the leadership of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, we can help put an end to home improvement fraud.”
The Attorney General thanked the State Police and the Town of Cheektowaga Police Department for their help in the case.
The charge against Boone is merely an accusation and he is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Dennis Rosen and Letizia Tagliafierro, under the supervision of Buffalo Regional Office Head Russell Ippolito and Deputy Bureau Chief Richard Ernst of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau. The investigation was conducted by Senior Investigator Peter Eiss, with the assistance of Town of Cheektowaga detectives Christopher Chojnacki and David Stevens, and Cheektowaga Building Inspector Richard Coburn.