New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Obtains Permanent Ban, $1.1 Million Judgment Against Unregistered Contractor Who Took Money from Elderly Consumers for Repairs That Were Never Completed
NEWARK - A Superior Court Judge has permanently barred New York-based Leroy N. Brown, an unregistered home improvement contractor who did business as "B&K Masonry & Chimney," from performing home improvement work in New Jersey, and ordered him to pay $1.1 million after finding that he committed 410 violations of the State's consumer protection laws and regulations, following an action brought by the Attorney General's Office and the Division of Consumer Affairs.
The State's eight-count Verified Complaint, filed last December in State Superior Court in Essex County, alleged that Brown, d/b/a "B&K Masonry & Chimney," committed multiple violations of the Consumer Fraud Act, the Contractors' Registration Act, and related regulations by, among other things, misrepresenting himself as a registered contractor and using deceptive sales tactics, including proclamations of imminent health and safety risks, to induce mostly elderly consumers into purchasing expensive chimney repairs that were never completed.
Brown failed to file a response to the Verified Complaint, resulting in Judge Donald A. Kessler granting the State's request for entry of a Final Judgment by Default and Order. Among other things, Brown is required to pay the Division a total of $1,123,303 within ten days. That total includes $1,025,000 in civil penalties, $81,646 in reimbursement of the Division's attorneys' fees and investigative costs, and $16,657 in restitution to 11 consumers. Further, Brown is permanently barred from advertising, offering for sale, selling and/or performing home improvements in New Jersey, and from managing and/or owning any business in New Jersey.
"We will not tolerate home improvement contractors like Leroy Brown who cheat our citizens, particularly when the target is our elderly population," said Acting Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino. "The civil penalty ordered by the court should serve as a warning to contractors that violating our consumer protection laws will result in serious consequences."
"Through its vigorous investigation of Leroy Brown and B&K Masonry & Chimney, the Division has ensured he will never again be able to prey on New Jersey consumers," said Steve Lee, Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. "We will continue to serve as watchdogs of the home improvement marketplace to safeguard consumers from contractors who make their money through lies and deceit."
According to the State's Complaint, Brown, who maintained business addresses in Teaneck; Babylon, New York; and West Babylon, New York, made misrepresentations by phone and on a B&K Masonry & Chimney website that the defendant was "licensed and registered" and that "all work is guaranteed." Brown also made unsolicited calls to the elderly, offering chimney and sweeping services at a discount. In addition, Brown allegedly used deceptive sales practices such as having a B&K Masonry & Chimney representative misrepresent himself as a government inspector and inform a consumer that if she did not have a chimney liner replaced, she would no longer be allowed to use her furnace, and if she did use her furnace, she could be fined.
Brown also allegedly provided consumers with home improvement contracts that did not include legally required information, including "Notice to the Consumer" cancellation language or a certificate of commercial liability. In addition, Brown allegedly made misrepresentations as to the location of his business, giving a false address to consumers.
Additionally, according to the Complaint, Brown, among other things, obtained payment for home improvement work that he never commenced, failed to complete promised work that had already been paid for, failed to provide consumers with timely written notice of delays, represented to consumers that contracted-for chimney cleaning and/or repairs had been completed when, in fact, they had not, and performed home improvements in a substandard, and at times, dangerous, manner. At least one family was allegedly forced to flee their home because of high levels of carbon monoxide inside the dwelling following chimney liner work performed by Brown.
Investigators Joseph Iasso and Jessica Lugo in the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Koziar in the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law represented the State in this action.
The Bergen County Office of Consumer Affairs referred consumer complaints to the Division for its use in investigating this matter.
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 by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846
(toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.