Pa. AG Hammers Contractor with Home Repair Suit

March 9, 2005

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett announced the filing of a civil lawsuit against a Lackawanna County contractor accused of defrauding consumers out of $110,000 by failing to complete the home improvement projects that he was under contract and substantially paid to perform.

Corbett identified the defendant as George Gard, individually, and doing business as “Mas-Ters Contracting,” Scranton. The suit follows an investigation into complaints from Lackawanna County homeowners who claimed that Gard failed to honor their contracts and/or performed work that was shoddy and below standard.

Gard is accused of violating Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. The suit seeks consumer restitution, enhanced civil penalties and a permanent ban on conducting business in the Commonwealth.

Investigators with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said Gard, through October 2004, accepted payments and entered into contracts with consumers to perform various home improvement projects including roofing, fencing, sidewalk, driveway, patio, ceiling, masonry, door and window repairs. The defendant was paid between $1,500 and $48,500 to complete the contracted work.

According to homeowners’ complaints, the defendant performed minimal work after receiving significant payments from consumers. In each case, the defendant allegedly failed to complete the contracts. In some cases, the minimal work that was performed reportedly had to be professionally redone.

One homeowner last September entered into multiple contracts with the defendant and paid him more than $48,000 to perform extensive home remodeling. Despite being paid in-full, Gard allegedly performed some work on the roof and failed to return to the job site.

Another consumer said Gard reneged on his promise to return money for work that was never completed. One other consumer claimed that her home received significant water damage as a result of the defendant’s incomplete roof repairs.

“Our case accuses Mr. Gard of consistently accepting money for work that he fails to perform,” Corbett said. “Even worse, the defendant typically demands additional payments or full payments from consumers before completely abandoning their projects. These allegations are serious and worthy of a permanent injunction that would bar him from working as a home improvement contractor in the state.”

Corbett said the suit also accuses the defendant of: Falsely claiming that he is licensed as a contractor by the city of Scranton; using illegal contracts that failed to inform consumers of their right to cancel the transaction within three days, and failure to register his business with the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Corbett said the lawsuit asks the court to require the defendant to:

* Pay nearly $110,000 in restitution to eight consumers who filed complaints with his Office, plus pay full restitution to those who come forward with proof of similar harm.

* Pay civil penalties of no less than $38,000 to include enhanced penalties for alleged victims aged 60 or older.

* Pay an additional $1,000-$3,000 per violation for eligible consumers who come forward and file similar complaints.

* Permanently forfeit his right to conduct business in Pennsylvania.

* Pay the Commonwealth’s investigation costs.

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