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Post date: December 5 2003

Court Order Shuts Down Unscrupulous Roofing Company

Attorney General Spitzer today praised a court decision against a Central New York home improvement contractor who repeatedly victimized and defrauded consumers.

Onondaga County State Supreme Court Justice John V. Centra issued an order against Douglas Ward, also known as Doug Landers, the owner of Affordable Roofing & Contracting of Syracuse and Landers Roofing Co. of Solvay to cease operations unless he posts a $25,000 bond. To date, Ward has failed to do so.

"Unscrupulous business practices of home improvement contractors can ruin homes and destroy personal finances," Spitzer said. "My office will continue to act aggressively to protect against home repair contractors who defraud consumers and besmirch the reputation of their industry."

In October of this year, Spitzer's office filed a lawsuit against Ward after receiving nearly 20 complaints from consumers. The lawsuit alleged that Ward performed poor quality work, failed to respond to consumer complaints, and failed to honor warranties or remedy defects in workmanship. It also alleged that Ward engaged in false advertising by misrepresenting the extent of his business experience and the ownership of his businesses. He repeatedly claimed that his home repair business was owned by his father who, in fact, has been deceased for 25 years.

According to the complaint, Ward targeted seniors for the worst of his unscrupulous activities, including grossly underestimating the cost of a project and then greatly inflating the price after the job's completion. In one case, Ward gave an 84-year old woman an estimate of $525 to repair her roof. After completing the repairs, Ward presented this woman with an amended contract of $13,800 which he reduced to $9,800 when she protested the 2,600 percent mark-up. According to legal papers, when the elderly woman indicated that she would make monthly payments, Ward then claimed to call his "father" and told the woman he'd be fired if he didn't bring back some money. She then agreed to drive with Ward to her bank to apply for a loan. When the loan was refused, Ward convinced her to withdraw the balance from her savings account.

Spitzer's lawsuit also alleges that Ward repeatedly violated consumer protection laws that require down payments to be placed in escrow accounts and contracts for home improvements

to include provisions warning customers of lien law obligations and their three-day right to cancel. Ward had previously failed to modify the contracts despite repeated notices by Spitzer's office of his contracts' violations.

Justice Centra's court order also requires Ward to pay over $30,000 in restitution to injured consumers, $9,500 in civil penalties and costs, and bans him from any future deceptive, fraudulent or illegal acts and any violations of consumer protection laws.

Individuals with complaints against Douglas Ward a/k/a Doug Landers, Affordable Roofing and Contracting, and Landers Roofing are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Judith Malkin under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General In Charge Winthrop Thurlow of the Syracuse Regional Office.