New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Obtains Court Order Shutting Down Unregistered Contractor Who Allegedly Took Money from Elderly Consumers for Repairs That Were Never Completed
NEWARK – The Office of the Attorney General and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs have filed suit against Leroy N. Brown, an unregistered contractor who did business as "B&K Masonry & Chimney," for misrepresenting himself as a registered contractor and for 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.
On December 17, 2015, a State Superior Court Judge granted the State's request for a preliminary injunction, which froze Brown's assets and also barred Brown from performing any additional home improvement work in New Jersey. The Court had previously frozen one bank account used by Brown to conduct business as "B&K Masonry & Chimney" and the State is in the process of identifying additional assets.
Brown, who maintained business addresses in Teaneck; Babylon, New York; and West Babylon, New York; allegedly committed multiple violations of the Consumer Fraud Act and Home Improvement Contractors' Registration Act. Brown also faces enhanced civil penalties because the majority of his victims are senior citizens.
"It is no exaggeration to say the public's health and safety were endangered by Mr. Brown and the illegal and substandard work he performed," Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. "Through the legal action we have taken and the recent court decision, Brown can no longer put other consumers, especially elderly consumers, at risk."
According to the State's Complaint, Brown, d/b/a "B&K Masonry & Chimney," made misrepresentations by phone and on a B&K Masonry & Chimney website that the defendant was "licensed and registered" and that "[a]ll work is guaranteed." In order to get work, Brown 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.
"This unregistered contractor allegedly lied to consumers again and again so that he could line his pockets with profits without doing substantive work," said Steve Lee, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. "He allegedly went so far as to target the elderly and to have an employee misrepresent himself as a government inspector to convince a consumer to get unnecessary repairs."
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 cleaners 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.
Team Leader Joseph Iasso and Investigator Jessica Lugo in the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.
Lead Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Koziar in the Division of Law's Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, is representing the State.
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.
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