New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Files Complaint Against Contractor Alleging Fraud in Connection with Elevation and Repair of Sandy-Damaged Homes
Complaint Alleges Multiple Violations of Consumer Protection Laws and Failure to Complete Work on Seven Properties, After Being Paid with Federal Funds
NEWARK – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs have filed a complaint alleging that a contractor hired to perform home improvement and elevation projects on Superstorm Sandy-damaged houses used deceptive practices to obtain nearly $350,000 in federal relief funds from seven homeowners.
The complaint alleges that Coastal Restorations & Construction of New Jersey, along with Adam Nevius, Cole Nevius Jr. and Kimberly D. Atkinson violated the State's Consumer Fraud Act, the Contractors' Registration Act, the Regulations Governing Contractor Registration, the Regulations Governing Home Improvement Practices and the Regulations Governing General Advertising.
The defendants are alleged to have accepted money, including federal restoration funds, from consumers to repair and/or elevate Sandy-damaged homes and then failed to begin work, failed to give notice regarding delays in service, failed to respond to phone calls, emails and/or texts inquiring about the status of repairs and/or abandoned unfinished projects without returning for weeks, months or at all, according to the complaint.
"Those still recovering from Superstorm Sandy must have confidence that contractors will treat them fairly and honestly," Attorney General Porrino said. "We will continue to aggressively pursue those who destroy that confidence and undermine the ability of families to go home again."
"If a contractor accepts a renovation or elevation job, that company must follow the laws and regulations governing home improvement," said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. "If the company cannot, it should not be conducting business in New Jersey. In order to protect vulnerable consumers, we will remain vigilant and take action against those who fail to live up to their contracts."
The complaint, the eighth action filed by the State against home improvement contractors alleging Sandy-related fraud in connection with federal restoration grant money, was filed in Superior Court in Ocean County.
The consumers identified in the complaint received money from the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, to pay for construction work on Sandy-damaged homes. The RREM program is the state's largest rebuilding initiative.
"Dishonest contractors not only prevent Sandy-impacted families from rebuilding their homes, they also impede the State's overall recovery effort," said New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Charles A. Richman. "We thank the Division of Consumer Affairs for diligently investigating Sandy contractor fraud claims and taking legal action against contractors when warranted. This important work shows the State is rooting out deceptive contractors and helping Sandy survivors get their rebuilding projects back on track."
The complaint, among other things, also alleges that:
- In one case, the defendants filled a dumpster at a consumers' project site with material from other jobs and then failed to pay the dumpster vendor, causing the consumer to pay for its removal.
- The company issued a bad refund check to a consumer for overpayment and ultimately failed to refund any money to the consumer.
- Adam Nevius represented that building and construction permit applications had been filed, when such was not the case.
- Coastal Restorations' website falsely made claims that the company would handle all permitting procedures.
- The company failed to prominently include its Home Improvement Contractor Registration number on advertisements on the website and in consumer correspondence.
- Coastal Restorations failed to include on invoices, contracts and correspondence the toll-free telephone number provided for consumers to call with inquiries or complaints concerning home improvement contractors.
The complaint seeks consumer restitution, the disgorging of federal money paid to the contractor, civil penalties, attorneys' fees and investigative costs. In addition, the state is seeking to permanently revoke the contractor's state registrations and forbid Coastal Restorations, Adam Nevius, Cole Nevius and Atkinson from operating a construction business in New Jersey.
Investigators Joseph Iasso and Maureen Browne of the Division's Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Jesse J. Sierant, of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, is representing the State in this action.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an
online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.