New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Files Action Against Ocean County Couple and Their Home Improvement Contracting Companies for Allegedly Bilking More than $900,000 in Superstorm Sandy Relief Funds
NEWARK – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs have filed an action against an Ocean County couple and their home improvement companies for allegedly defrauding dozens of homeowners – including 26 homeowners who allegedly lost $923,742 in federal relief funds they paid to have their homes repaired or rebuilt.
Jeffrey Colmyer and Tiffany A. Cimino, of Little Egg Harbor, and their companies Rayne Construction Management Services, LLC (“RCMS”) and Colmyer and Sons Construction, LLC, (“Colmyer and Sons”) took initial payments from consumers and then failed to begin work, performed work in a substandard manner, and/or abandoned unfinished projects without returning for weeks, months, or at all, according to the State’s Complaint filed in Ocean County Superior Court.
“Instead of working to get Sandy victims back into their homes, these swindlers allegedly walked away with the money, leaving homeowners with little or nothing to show for it,” said Attorney General Porrino. “This was especially devastating to residents who paid the defendants with government grant money only to see their home rebuilding projects sit idle for months and months on end.”
The 26 homeowners named in the Complaint were all recipients of federal grants from the Department of Community Affairs’ Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, the state’s largest rebuilding initiative. Ten additional homeowners also filed complaints against the defendants in connection with home improvement work they hired the defendants to perform.
This is the second Complaint the Division of Consumer Affairs has filed against contractors who allegedly defrauded RREM recipients.
“We will continue to bring legal action against contractors who swindled consumers out of the grant money they desperately needed to rebuild their homes and move on with their lives after Superstorm Sandy,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “We will not allow unscrupulous contractors to get away with re-victimizing homeowners as they struggled to get back on their feet.”
“Dishonest contractors not only hinder Sandy-impacted families from rebuilding their homes, they also impede the state’s overall recovery effort,” said 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.”
On its website, RCMS claimed it was a “family owned’ business, run by “experts at house raising,” and a “company you can trust” for home building through its “sister company” Colmyer and Sons.
On a video that appeared on the Colmyer and Sons website, Colmyer assured prospective customers the company was “specifically geared” to handle Superstorm Sandy projects. “For the next 18 months, everything we do will be based on getting people back into their homes as quick (sic) possible,” Colmyer said.
In reality, the defendants failed to provide consumers with the contracted work they paid for, according to the Complaint. The Complaint alleges that the defendants violated the Consumer Fraud Act, the Contractors’ Registration Act, the Home Elevation Regulations, the Home Improvement Regulations, and the Advertising Regulations, by:
Providing consumers with a date and/or time for particular work or projects to be completed, then failing to complete the work.
Abandoning jobs and leaving homes uninhabitable, including raising a home and leaving it up on pilings, without any access to the home or completing further work; leaving a home exposed to the elements for months, thereby causing extensive damage; leaving a home without water service, sewer service, a roof, windows, siding, any insulation, plumbing, HVAC, interior walls, a kitchen or bathroom.
Performing construction services in a substandard manner, including incorrectly installing waste lines; installing unsafe electrical wiring; incorrectly suspending floor joists; cutting laminated beams too short; leaving rotted plywood sheathing on a house and covering it with new siding; and installing a new roof that leaked; and then failing to make the necessary corrective repairs.
- Performing construction services that repeatedly failed inspections.
Failing to maintain general liability insurance.
Taking money from consumers and then, through statements made by Jeffrey Colmyer, telling them that he “did nothing with the money,” that he was “out of money,” that the money was “gone,” that he was “tapped,” and that he had spent the money on “other jobs.”
Asking consumers for additional monies for materials and payroll and threatening to walk off the job if the monies were not provided.
Having consumers pay out-of-pocket for work that was included in contracts and/or already paid for.
Taking money from consumers and doing little work.
- Refusing to issue refunds when requested by consumers after failing to perform contracted-for work.
The Complaint seeks consumer restitution, the disgorgement of RREM funds to the Department of Community Affairs, reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and costs, and civil penalties. The state also seeks to permanently revoke the Home Improvement Contractor, the Home Elevation Contractor, and New Home Builders registrations issued to the defendants, and permanently enjoin the defendants from owning or operating a home improvement business in New Jersey.
Investigators Joseph Iasso and Brittany Kieran of the Division’s Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Cathleen O’Donnell, 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 by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846
(toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.