Attorney General Cuomo Seeks Jail For Home Improvement Contractor Who Repeatedly Defied Previous Court Order
BUFFALO, N.Y. (April 22, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew Cuomo today announced his office is seeking a criminal contempt of court order against a Buffalo area man who willfully defied a court order by continuing to operate in the home improvement business after he was ordered not to.
Ronald Timmerman, 30, of Sowles Road in Hamburg, faces criminal contempt of court for at least 10 violations of a prior court judgment by continuing to solicit business as a home improvement contractor. Each violation can carry a maximum jail term of 30 days and a $1,000 fine.
“Over a year ago, my office put this man out of business because his long history of offering to do renovations for homeowners, getting their money and then not doing the work,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Violations of a court order are serious offenses and are not taken lightly by my office. Buffalo area homeowners should not be subjected to Mr. Timmerman’s alleged continued acts of fraud.”
In 2007, Attorney General Cuomo obtained a court order prohibiting Timmerman from operating a home improvement business unless he repaid $30,000 in restitution to consumers he defrauded. Once allowed to operate in the business again, Timmerman would be allowed to only enter into agreements with consumers via written contracts in line with New York state law, and not accept advance payments to comply with Lien law.
According to court documents, an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office discovered that within a few weeks, Timmerman – without paying any restitution – began working as a contractor while flouting the other aspects of the order. He set up partnerships with two other contractors to operate roofing businesses, albeit not in his own name. Timmerman received advance payments from consumers, but did not deposit the money into an escrow account, nor did he post bonds, contracts of indemnity or irrevocable letters of credit as required by law.
Timmerman and his partners also began the practice of underbidding jobs in an effort to solicit business. While the work was in progress, they would then reevaluate the quoted price to charge the homeowner significantly more money.
Among the violations detailed in court documents:
- Timmerman started a job, and what was a common occurrence, told the consumer that the garage roof needed to be re-sheeted and pressured her to accept a quoted price. Before the work was completed, Timmerman attempted to remove his trailer and was arrested by the Cheektowaga Police for criminal mischief.
- In another instance, Timmerman and a partner undertook a job that was not completed to the consumer’s liking. The partner then was arrested for stealing a ladder from the consumer. Timmerman and his other partner then showed up and offered to complete the job – for an additional $1,000 “to get started.” The consumer did not accept the proposal and ordered the pair to get off their property.
- A homeowner called Timmerman, who replaced his garage roof in 2006, about replacing the front roof on his house. Timmerman gave the consumer an oral estimate of $950 to $1,000 to do the work, which was accepted with nothing in writing. Timmerman then told the homeowner the dormer roof also needed work, as well as several other areas of the house. The homeowner ended up paying $30,050 for the work, which was never outlined in a written estimate or contract.
Last month, the Attorney General’s Office learned that Timmerman had started a third business known as Rock Solid Roofing & Siding in violation of the original order. Buffalo area consumers who believe they may have been defrauded by Timmerman or have unresolved disputes with a home improvement contractor are urged to call the Attorney General’s Buffalo Regional Office at 716-853-8400.
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/home-improvements.
Details of Timmerman’s original scheme can be found at www.ag.ny.gov//press-release/home-improvement-contractor-sidelined-until-refunds-are-paid-0.
In addition to legal actions, the Attorney General’s Office regularly mediates consumer complaints on a number of issues. The Attorney General’s Buffalo Regional Office mediated 96 consumer complaints against home improvement contractors last year, resulting in $69,385.79 in restitution 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.
The criminal contempt charge is merely an accusation and Timmerman is presumed innocent until and unless he is proven guilty.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General James M. Morrissey of the Buffalo Regional Office under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General In-Charge Russell Ippolito.