Attorney General Cuomo Announces Settlement, Restitution From Two

April 24, 2007 - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced the culmination of lawsuits against two operators of home improvement businesses that victimized dozens of consumers in Monroe County.

Todd C. Clifford, 38, of Webster, owner of Todd Clifford's Painting and More and other home improvement businesses, was ordered to pay a total of $31,338 in restitution to 28 consumers who paid for services that were never provided or were victims of poor work. He must also pay civil penalties of $5,000 and statutory costs of $2,000.

The Attorney General's Office conducted an investigation revealing that Clifford engaged in fraudulent and deceptive acts and violations of the state Home Improvement Contracts Law and Lien Law. Clifford accepted payments for home improvement projects and snow plowing services that he never provided or performed sub-standard work that required consumers to hire other contractors to fix the projects. He also failed to return customer's phone calls and refused to provide refunds, leading many consumers to file suits in small claims court. At least 27 consumers secured judgments against Clifford, but he has failed to satisfy any of them.

John A. Szymonek, 46, owner of HBC Construction, Inc. and HB Construction and Management Company, was ordered to pay $49,807.77 in total restitution to 21 consumers who were defrauded. He must also pay civil penalties in the amount of $10,000 and statutory costs of $4,000. Szymonek was extradited from Canada on April 7 and is now in the Monroe County jail, facing criminal charges from the Monroe County District Attorney's Office.

According to the Attorney General's investigation, Szymonek demanded payment in-full for projects that were never performed. Complaints indicated he used threats and intimidation to force payments from victims. On other projects, Szymonek performed sub-standard work, failed to complete jobs, failed to pay subcontractors (resulting in mechanics liens on properties), and falsely claimed that his businesses were members of the Better Business Bureau and Better Contractors Bureau. The Attorney General's Office also revealed that Szymonek failed to include consumer protection clauses in his contracts, deposit down payments in escrow accounts and honor warranties or make refunds to aggrieved customers.

Aside from the restitution, civil penalties and statutory costs, the settlement bars both Clifford and Szymonek from working in the home improvement industry in New York State.

The Attorney General's website, www.ag.ny.gov, contains tips on selecting home improvement contractors.

"Consumers looking for home improvement contractors should do their homework first," said Attorney General Cuomo. "These two individuals did shoddy work and customers suffered. By being informed, New York consumers will be able to discern qualified contractors from those who are in to make a quick buck at the expense of personal property."

Both cases were handled by Assistant Attorney General Carlos Rodriguez of the Rochester Regional Office. Supervising Investigator Christopher Holland assisted in the cases.


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