Temporary Restraining Orders Halt Unscrupulous Practices

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office has filed lawsuits against two operators of home improvement businesses who victimized dozens of consumers in Monroe County.

Todd C. Clifford of Webster and his home improvement business, Todd Clifford’s Painting and More, were served with a temporary court order that bans them from illegal and deceptive business practices and prohibits the transfer of any monies or properties.

In addition to a restraining order, Spitzer’s office filed a lawsuit alleging Clifford and his home improvement business engaged in fraud, deceptive acts and violations of the state Home Improvement Contracts Law and Lien Law. Also named in the lawsuit are various fictional companies under which Clifford operates including: Clifford’s We Do It All; Todd Clifford Handyman; Clifford’s Contracting; and Clifford’s Painting.

An investigation by Spitzer’s office revealed that Clifford accepted payments for home improvement projects and snow plowing services that he never provided. Consumers also complained that work Clifford performed was so poor that they were forced to hire a different contractor to fix and finish the project.

Clifford’s failure to return customer phone calls and refusal to provide refunds forced many individuals to file lawsuits in Small Claims Court. Even though at least 27 consumers secured judgments against Clifford, he has failed to satisfy any of them.

Since March 2005, Spitzer’s office received in excess of 40 complaints and referrals from other agencies against Clifford.

In a separate matter, Spitzer’s office obtained a temporary restraining order and filed a lawsuit against John A. Szymonek who operates HBC Construction Inc. and HB Construction and Management Company. An investigation by Spitzer’s office found that at least 21 consumers had claims against Szymonek exceeding $45,000. According to these complaints, Szymonek demanded full payment for projects that were never performed. Some individuals said he threatened and intimidated them into making payments. For other projects, he performed shoddy, unprofessional work, failed to complete the job, failed to pay subcontractors, which left consumers with mechanics liens on their properties, and misrepresented to consumers that his businesses were members of the Better Business Bureau and Better Contractors Bureau. The investigation also revealed that Szymonek failed to include important consumer protection clauses in contracts, deposit down payments in escrow accounts and honor warranties or make refunds to aggrieved customers.

In the lawsuits, Spitzer’s office is seeking court orders permanently barring Clifford and Szymonek from the home improvement industry in New York State. The Attorney General’s office also is seeking full accountings from each business for each consumer with whom it contracted, as well as orders to pay restitution, civil penalties and court costs.

Individuals with complaints against Clifford or Szymonek should call the Attorney General’s consumer help line at (800) 771-7755. For tips on home improvement contracting, consumers are encouraged to visit the Attorney General’s website at www.ag.ny.gov.

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