Home Builder Cited For Shoddy Work And Unfinished Projects
Attorney General Spitzer today announced a lawsuit against a Putnam County home builder for bilking its customers out of over $130,000.
Ramjet Homes, Inc. and its owner Martin Laurent, were accused of fraudulent and illegal business practices that included taking large up-front payments for the construction of new homes and then abandoning the projects, leaving behind partially built projects in poor condition.
"This case illustrates the worst nightmares consumers have when building a home," Spitzer said. "My office is seeking a court order barring this unscrupulous contractor from victimizing additional New Yorkers and directing restitution for those consumers injured by his acts."
The lawsuit seeks restitution of more than $130,000 for four families who were left with extended delays, shoddy construction, unfinished and abandoned projects damaged by weather, and liens on their property.
Spitzers office also seeks civil penalties and court costs as well as a court order banning the owner and the company from the home construction business unless they post a $500,000 performance bond.
In one case, Albert and Karen Martucci contracted with Ramjet Homes in August of 1998 for a custom-built home to be constructed in Patterson. The project - which totaled $158,000 - called for completion by December 31. The construction, however, was marked by delays, numerous failed inspections by the town building department, and septic system problems. After receiving payment of nearly the entire contract price from the couple, Ramjet Homes completely abandoned the unfinished project site in mid-December.
The Martuccis were then forced to hire another contractor to finish the work. In the end, the couple was forced to spend nearly $19,000 in addition to the money paid to Laurent. Due to the shoddy work by Ramjet Homes, however, the town refused to issue a Certificate of Occupancy, which forced the Martuccis to pay an additional $1,800 to fix the septic tank and drains.
The owner of Ramjet Homes, Laurent, also filed a lien against the couples property, forcing them to pay him an additional $6,000 before they could close on the house. Laurent then fraudulently verified that all subcontractors had been paid.
Spitzers lawsuit accuses Ramjet Homes and Laurent of violating State consumer protection laws enacted to protect monies paid by consumers to home contractors by requiring escrow accounts. These laws also require contracts to provide certain information, such as projected start and completion dates as well as progress dates for each project. Both parties are legally bound by the dates in the contract.
Individuals with complaints against home contractors are encouraged to contact the Attorney Generals consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Doris K. Morin under the supervision of Gary Brown, Assistant Attorney General In Charge of the Westchester Regional Office.
|Complainant Name||Location||Restitution Requested|
|Gabrielle and James Dukes||Patterson||$35,270.00|
|Albert and Karen Martucci||Patterson||$23,252,48|
|Paul and Ana Price||Pawling||$60,161.00|
|Paul Shkreli||Brewster||$ 4,143.00 + over $10,604 for an excavator owned by the consumer in the use and possession of Ramjet Homes.|