Western N.y. Home Improvement Contractors Sentenced
Attorney General Spitzer today announced that a father-and-son team of home improvement contractors was sentenced in Buffalo on felony charges of defrauding numerous customers across Western New York.
Edward L. Kwiatkowski, 59, of Depew and his son, John P. Kwiatkowski, 35, of Cheektowaga, operate Skyline Builders and Construction Inc. of Depew. The Kwiatkowskis victimized at least 16 customers in Erie, Genesee, Monroe, Livingston and Allegany counties between September 1998 and March 2000. They routinely demanded thousands of dollars in deposits to build pole barns, garages and replace roofs but rarely performed more than a few hundred dollars-worth of work on any one project and in many cases performed no work at all.
In Erie County Court today, Judge Timothy J. Drury:
- Sentenced Edward Kwiatkowski to one-and-one-third to four years in prison and ordered him to make restitution of $55,227.50 on felony charges of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and Grand Larceny in the Third Degree.
- Sentenced John Kwiatkowski to six months in jail and probation and ordered him to pay $17,277.59 in restitution on the felony charge of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.
"These contractors violated the trust that hard-working homeowners placed in them," Spitzer said. "They demanded sizeable down payments for home improvement jobs that in most cases they had no intention of even beginning, let alone completing. My office will vigorously prosecute cases like this to protect homeowners from unscrupulous home improvement contractors."
New York's lien law requires that all funds received by a contractor from a customer must be placed in an escrow account for the contractor to hold in trust until the money is needed for labor or materials on the job for which they were paid. The Kwiatkowskis routinely violated the law by treating customers' deposits as their own spending money. For example, the Kwiatkowskis spent thousands of dollars of customers' money on a vacation cabin in Chautauqua County at the same time they were failing to work on home improvement jobs for which they had collected thousands of dollars in down payments.
Among the Kwiatkowskis victims was a church in Batavia. In this case, John Kwiatkowski verbally abused a church deacon who inquired about his plans for finishing contracted work.
Other victims included elderly homeowners in Monroe and Erie Counties, including a laid-off Kodak employee who gave them an $8,000 down payment to build a pole barn and received no work in return; an Erie County woman who borrowed $5,000 from her pension fund to pay for work that was not performed; and a subcontractor in Erie County who was physically threatened by the Kwiatkowskis when he sought payment from them for work he did on their behalf.
Customers who pleaded with the Kwiatkowskis to perform work on which they had made down payments were often met with vulgar language and threats.
The two men were charged July 12, 2000 in a 22-count indictment handed up by a Special Grand Jury in Erie County. They pled guilty before Judge Drury on December 4, 2000.
Spitzer said the vast majority of home contractors are hardworking and honest craftsmen. The Kwiatkowskis behavior in these and other cases was unconscionable and resulted in the very unusual punishment of imprisonment.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Dennis Rosen of the Attorney General's Buffalo Regional Office with investigative assistance by Peter Eiss of the Attorney General's Office and by State Police Investigator Daryl Harris.