N.Y. Court Issues Order Against Contractor

March 17, 2005

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced that his office has obtained a court order against a Dutchess County home improvement contractor who reportedly preyed upon immigrant workers and vulnerable consumers.

Dutchess County State Supreme Court Acting Justice Thomas Dolan issued an order against R.E.M. Builders and its owner Robert E. Muscat banning the company and its owner from the home improvement industry unless a $50,000 performance bond is posted.

In addition, Justice Dolan issued a money judgment against Muscat for over $50,000, including $17,700 in back wages to undocumented workers, over $21,000 in consumer refunds, and $11,500 in civil penalties and costs.

In a lawsuit filed last month, Spitzer alleged that the home improvement contractor defrauded consumers by failing to do or complete home improvement projects for which they had paid and for failing to pay wages to workers, in particular, undocumented day laborers who speak little or no English.

According to legal papers, since at least 2002, R.E.M. Builders has repeatedly failed to pay wages promised to workers who speak little or no English. When workers confronted Muscat about the unpaid wages, he reportedly threatened to report them to federal immigration authorities and to harm them physically.

In addition, Muscat reportedly falsely told customers that R.E.M. Builders was “fully insured” even though it had no workers’ compensation insurance for its undocumented workers or liability insurance to protect the consumers for damage to their property caused by his company.

Spitzer’s lawsuit also alleged that R.E. M. Builders took large advance payments from consumers and either failed to complete projects or performed work in a shoddy manner.

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