N.Y. Officials Target Home Improvement Fraud

April 26, 2005

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced efforts by his office to protect consumers in the Hudson Valley against unscrupulous home improvement contractors.

“My office is committed to taking aggressive action against home improvement contractors who repeatedly victimize New Yorkers through fraud and other illegal acts,” Spitzer said.

As part of this effort, Spitzer obtained a restraining order against one Dutchess County home improvement contractor, freezing financial accounts of Brian P. Tyrrell, operator of Tyrrell Construction Corp. and Dura-Crete LLC.

In addition, Spitzer’s office served Tyrrell with a lawsuit alleging that Tyrrell engaged in deceptive, fraudulent and illegal business practices and violated New York State’s Home Improvement Contracts Law, Lien Law, and Door-to-Door Sales Protection Act.

Specifically, Spitzer’s lawsuit alleges that Tyrrell demanded large up-front payments for home repair projects and then either failed to complete the jobs or did the work in an unprofessional, shoddy manner. Tyrrell also is charged with failing to return to repair his defective work or refund customers’ money.

For instance, one woman contracted with Tyrrell in May of 2003 for a $71,000 project that included building a two-story addition, remodeling her kitchen and re-shingling her roof. After advancing Tyrrell nearly $24,000, the consumer reportedly saw work on the project undergo repeated delays over the next year. As Tyrrell finally made some progress in 2004, she paid him an additional $24,000, despite misgivings due to shoddy workmanship that had caused minor damage to her house.

Again, Tyrrell reportedly delayed the project and left the consumer’s house open to the elements for an extended period of time, which resulted in serious water damage to the structure. By October 2004, the project was reportedly completely abandoned. The consumer eventually was forced to hire a different contractor to finish the job and repair the damage to her home. Her losses for the project totaled nearly $65,000.

According to legal papers, Spitzer’s office has received at least 10 complaints from consumers since 2003 who have lost nearly $109,000 as a result of Tyrrell’s fraudulent and illegal business practices.

Spitzer’s lawsuit seeks a court order barring Tyrrell from the home improvement industry unless he posts a $200,000 performance bond. The lawsuit also seeks a judgment for full restitution for consumers who have filed complaints and civil penalties for Tyrrell’s violations of law.

In a separate case, Spitzer’s office obtained a court order in mid-April against Vincent Van Pinto – owner of DaVinci Homes LLC in Albany County and V.P. Building Corp. in Columbia County – requiring Van Pinto to shut down his home improvement businesses until he posts a $200,000 performance bond.

Justice Christine Sproat of Dutchess County State Supreme Court also entered a judgment against Van Pinto for nearly $493,000, which reportedly includes more than $480,000 for restitution to 19 consumers and $12,000 in penalties and costs.

Any additional consumer who files a bona fide complaint on or before July 4, 2005 against Van Pinto and his home improvement companies may be eligible for restitution under the court order.

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