Attorney General Cuomo Seeks Contempt Ruling Against Dutchess County Home Improvement Contractor Who Violated Court Order

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (March 4, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his office has filed legal action seeking a contempt order against a Red Hook home improvement contractor who recently resumed doing business despite a previous court ruling barring him from the industry.

Red Hook contractor Robert Brown, 65, of Hewlett Rd. faces a potential fine and/or jail time if found in contempt of the prior court ruling.

“This individual’s notorious history of selling promises to homeowners and then not delivering on them underscores the need to bring further penalties against him,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “As part of an ongoing effort to crack down on unscrupulous home improvement contractors, I am holding this individual accountable to the original ruling against him to ensure that no more homeowners are victimized.”

The Attorney General’s Office sued Brown in 2006 for repeatedly defrauding customers by taking advance payments for plumbing and basement waterproofing jobs, and performing shoddy work or no work at all. In that case, Dutchess County State Supreme Court Justice James V. Brands issued a permanent order barring Brown from operating a home improvement business unless he obtained a $100,000 performance bond and paid full restitution to customers – of which Brown has done neither.

According to the judgment in that case, Brown ignored customers’ complaints, failed to provide refunds and refused to pay small claims judgments against him, resulting in approximately $35,000 lost to ten consumers.

More recently, an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office discovered Brown had contracted to do a residential basement waterproofing job in violation of Justice Brand’s order. The Attorney General’s Office has filed court papers seeking Brown be held in contempt of court for continuing to operate his home improvement business.

Should Brown be found in contempt of Justice Brands’ order, he faces a potential $5,000 fine and/or up to 30 days in jail.

In addition to legal actions, the Attorney General’s Office regularly mediates consumer complaints on a number of issues. The Attorney General’s Poughkeepsie Regional Office mediated 57 consumer complaints against home improvement contractors last year, resulting in $42,663.04 in restitution paid back to consumers. Statewide in 2007, the Attorney General’s Office mediated more than 900 complaints against contractors, resulting in restitution of more than $521,000 to consumers.

When planning to use a home contractor, consumers should consider the following tips:

  • Never agree to have work done on the spot, especially when potential contractors are marketing door-to-door
  • Determine exactly what you want done, then look for a qualified contractor
  • Shop around; get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided
  • Ask for references: check with the Better Business Bureau; banks; suppliers; and neighbors. Always contact any references provided to you
  • Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed
  • Do not pay unreasonable advance sums; negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job
  • Never pay the full price up front
  • Remember that you have three days to cancel after signing a home improvement contract, but all cancellations must be in writing

Additional information on how to avoid fraudulent home improvement contractors can be found on the Attorney General’s Website, www.ag.ny.gov/bureaus/consumer_frauds/tips/home_improvements.html.

Consumers who believe they may have been defrauded by or have unresolved disputes with a home improvement contractor are urged to call the Attorney General’s Consumer Help Line at 800-771-7755.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Nick Garin under the supervision of Barry Kaufman, the Acting Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Poughkeepsie Regional Office. Law Department Investigator Kathleen Coppersmith assisted in the current investigation.


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