Sandy-Related Construction Scams Continue
By the end of 2016, it was estimated that Hurricane Sandy scams had cost New Jersey more than $20 million in the four years since the super storm hit. Whether attempting to steal from the government or from victims themselves, Sandy fraudsters are still preying on consumers. Coastal Restoration & Construction in Manahawkin is one of the most recent fraudsters to be pursued by the Division of Consumer Affairs.
A Complaint has been filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Ocean County against the company’s principals and covers activities involving seven homeowners. The Complaint asserts that Coastal accepted nearly $350,000 in federal restoration funding, as well as from consumers, to repair or elevate homes damaged by Sandy without showing up to perform the work in violation of state law, among other laws. Other claims made in the Complaint include failure to give notice about delays in service, not to mention a lack of response to phone calls, e-mails and texts asking about the status of repairs. In some cases, unfinished projects were abandoned all together.
Here are some specific examples provided in a press release issued by Steve Lee, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs:
- A jobsite dumpster was filled with trash from other jobs. The owner of the dumpster was never paid. The homeowner ended up having to pay for its removal.
- A homeowner was issued a bad refund check for overpayment by the homeowner.
- One of the principals is accused of claiming that proper permit applications had been filed for building and construction, which was not filed.
- The company’s website falsely claimed that the company would handle all permitting procedures. Advertisements on the website failed to prominently display the company’s home improvement contractor registration number.
- Invoices, contracts and correspondence from the company did not include the toll-free number for consumers to call if they have questions or complaints about the contractor.
According to Lee, the list of state laws specifically violated by Coastal include the Consumer Fraud Act, the Contractor’s Registration Act, the Regulations Governing Contractor Registration, the Regulations Governing Home Improvement Practices and the Regulations Governing General Advertising. The actual federal program that the company accepted money from is the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program.
This is by no means the first Complaint of its kind. It is the eighth action the state has filed against contractors who have received federal restoration grant money in relation to Hurricane Sandy. In this case, the state hopes to permanently revoke Coastal’s state registrations and bar Coastal from operating a construction business in New Jersey. Restitution is being sought for homeowners, while the company and its principals are expected to pay civil penalties, attorney fees and investigative costs.
Sandy-related consumer fraud and the pursuit of justice for its victims has become an unfortunate niche for those who practice consumer law. If you suspect that you may be a victim of Sandy-related fraud or a scam like any of the above, call for an appointment today.
Please be advised that this blog is for informational purposes only, is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
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