A.G. Schneiderman Seeks To Permanently Shut Down Monroe County Home Improvement Contractor For Violating Previous Court Order

ROCHESTER – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has filed legal action seeking a contempt order against a Rochester home improvement contractor who cheated elderly homeowners despite a previous court order against him for similar deceptive acts and practices. Mark Pelow, 42, of Rochester tried to get homeowners to commit insurance fraud, failed to finish jobs after receiving full payment, performed shoddy work, and refused to honor warranties. Pelow faces potential jail time if found in contempt of the prior court ruling.

"It's bad enough that Mr. Pelow preyed on elderly homeowners once before, but the fact that he had the audacity to target and deceive the elderly again after already paying a fine, is unconscionable," said Attorney General Schneiderman. “This unscrupulous home improvement contractor will be held accountable by my office to ensure that no more homeowners are victimized.”

In 1999, the Attorney General’s Office previously sued Pelow and his brother for repeatedly defrauding customers by performing unauthorized work beyond the scope of the contract and demanding payment for the unauthorized services.  Pelow and his brother often used scare tactics and intimidation and targeted their deceptive and fraudulent business practices at elderly persons, 65 years of age or older.

In the previous case, Monroe County State Supreme Court Justice Donald Mark issued a permanent order barring Pelow from operating a home improvement business in violation of New York consumer protection and home improvement contracting laws, but Pelow was allowed to remain in business.  The court also ordered Pelow to pay $57,000 in restitution for over 20 victimized consumers.

More recently, an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office discovered Pelow was once again overcharging elderly consumers in violation of the 1999 agreement.  The investigation also uncovered new acts of fraud against elderly homeowners, including:

  • A 66-year old woman who contacted Pelow to repair a leak in her roof - he told her that her insurance company would pay to replace the entire roof when in fact her insurance company only agreed to pay to patch the damaged area.  When she learned the truth, she fired Pelow before he could finish half of her roof.  Pelow filed a "mechanics lien" against her home for $16,246, which far exceed the value of the work he performed. These deceptive acts and practices violate NY consumer protection laws and the prior order.
  • An 83-year old man who contacted Pelow to clean his gutters was charged $2,760 to repair a hole in his roof that Pelow caused.  Pelow asked the home owner to submit a claim on his homeowner's insurance at an inflated cost to cover the damage and split the difference with Pelow.  These deceptive acts and practices violate NY consumer protection laws and the prior order.
  • An 83-year old woman saw Pelow's advertisement in the newspaper offering to clean gutters for $39 and she contacted Pelow to schedule a cleaning.  After he said he was finished, he told her she owed him $864 thereby engaging in false advertising. Additionally, he never gave her a contract or a description of the services to be provided or notified her of her right to cancel, all of which are required by law and mandated by the prior court order.

If Pelow is found to be in contempt of Justice Mark’s order, he faces a potential permanent ban from working as a home improvement contractor in New York, payment of  $25,000 in restitution to victims, $22,000 in civil penalties and costs and/or up to six months in jail.

When planning to use a home improvement contractor, consumers should consider the following tips:

  • Never agree to have work done on the spot, especially when potential contractors are marketing door-to-door
  • Determine exactly what you want done, then look for a qualified contractor
  • Shop around; get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided
  • Ask for references: check with the Better Business Bureau; banks; suppliers; and neighbors.
  • Always contact any references provided to you
  • Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed
  • Do not pay unreasonable advance sums; negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completioof specific stages of the job
  • Never pay the full price up front
  • Remember that you have three days to cancel after signing a home improvement contract, but all cancellations must be in writing

Additional information on how to avoid fraudulent home improvement contractors can be found on the Attorney General’s Website.

Consumers who believe they may have been defrauded by or have unresolved disputes with a home improvement contractor are urged to call the Attorney General’s Consumer Help Line at (800) 771-7755.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Bruce under the supervision of Debra Martin, Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Rochester Regional Office. Senior Investigator Christopher Holland assisted in the current investigation.