Home Contractor Pleads Guilty And Agrees To Refunds

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office has taken aggressive action against a Monroe County home improvement operator for defrauding its customers out of thousands of dollars.

Allen R. Russell, Sr. - who operates home improvement companies under the names The Siding Center, Inc., the Siding Center, W.N.Y., Inc, Capital Holding, Capital Renovation, and Window and Door World of America, Inc. - was the subject of a seven month investigation by Spitzer’s office which has resulted in both a criminal plea and a civil lawsuit.

"This case sends a clear message to home improvement contractors that this office will take aggressive action against acts that defraud consumers," Spitzer said.

Russell, Sr. and his son, Allen R. Russell, Jr. have been operating a home improvement business in the town of Greece for at least the past twenty years. Spitzer’s office is aware of at least seventeen consumers who have been defrauded by the Russells between 1998 and July 2001.

In a civil case filed in State Supreme Court in Monroe County, Spitzer’s office has accused Allen Russell Sr., Allen R. Russell, Jr., and The Siding Center of deceptive and illegal business practices, fraud, and various violations of consumer protection laws.

Spitzer’s office is seeking a court order permanently barring the Russells and their various home improvement companies from operating a contracting company and doing door-to-door sales in New York state. The lawsuit also is seeking civil penalties and court costs, an order forcing the Russells and their companies to pay judgments against them, and a "window of opportunity" for additional consumers to fill out complaint forms with the Attorney General’s office to become eligible for restitution.

Last Wednesday, May 22, Justice Charles Maloy of Monroe County Court accepted a criminal plea by Allen Russell, Sr. to one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, punishable by up to four years incarceration. He will be sentenced on July 10, 2002.

At the time of his plea, Russell Sr. agreed to make restitution of approximately $70,000 to the consumers he defrauded.

Spitzer’s investigation revealed that Russell and his son demanded and received the full up-front payment for siding projects and, in many cases, failed to perform any work. Although he indicated to many consumers that their deposits would be safe in an escrow account, Russell instead deposited the funds into his personal bank account.

Other consumers complained that Allen Russell, Sr. left projects unfinished or refused to honor his warranties by fixing problems with his work. Russell also is accused of refusing to pay Small Claims Court judgments against him. Many consumers complained that Russell would lie to customers that materials were ordered, when none ever were. He also would fail to respond to consumer complaints.

The civil complaint charges Russell, Sr. with violations of the state Home Improvement Contracts Act, which requires that certain information be included in contracts, such as the name and address of the contractor, estimated dates when the work would begin and be substantially completed, certain notices about lien law implications, and a requirement that all money paid toward a project be placed in escrow.

Individuals wishing to file a complaint against the Russells or The Siding Center are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

The Attorney General acknowledged the assistance and cooperation of the State Police in referring the criminal case to his office.

The civil case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Carlos Rodriguez of the Rochester Regional Office. The criminal case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Mary Baumgarten of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Diane LaVallee.


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