Ill. AG Charges Businesses with Homeowner Scam

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed suit against two Madison County home remodelers for allegedly failing to perform or complete home repair and remodeling jobs promised to homeowners on both sides of the river in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Since December 2003, Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau has reportedly received a dozen complaints against David Smith and James Triplett, doing business as American Vinyl Touch of Edwardsville. They now apparently do business as Crystal Clear Exteriors and have relocated to East Carondelet.

Madigan’s complaint charges Smith and Triplett with violations of both the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and the Home Repair and Remodeling Act. Because some of the victims are over the age of 65, Madigan said Smith and Triplett could face additional civil penalties.

Consumers in Madison and St. Clair Counties who have filed complaints with Madigan’s office allegedly have lost approximately $10,525 in down payments or full payments on contracts. Missourians in St. Louis and Montgomery Counties have lost an estimated $8,043. With the exception of one complainant, Madigan said all calls to the defendants have gone unanswered and requests for refunds have been ignored. Additional complaints have been lodged against the pair with the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois.

“Home repair scams are among the most common type of fraud, causing serious losses for homeowners who are simply trying to improve their property,” Madigan said.

Madigan’s complaint, filed in Madison County Circuit Court, reveals that all contracts were signed while Smith or Triplett were in customers’ homes. The Consumer Fraud Act affords consumers the right to cancel such contracts within three business days. In addition, they must be provided with a copy of the home repair consumer’s rights pamphlet and, if the contract exceeds $1,000, both the consumer and the contractor must sign an acknowledgement that the pamphlet was provided prior to the start of work. The complaint alleges the defendants failed to comply with these requirements.

Seven homeowners complained to Madigan’s office that work never began on their projects after they paid deposits ranging from $600 to $2,000. Four other consumers, including those who prepaid entire contracts that ranged from $2,000 to $4,000, complained of incomplete or inferior workmanship. One other consumer reached a settlement with American Vinyl.

In two cases, according to Madigan’s complaint, Smith and Triplett contracted with consumers for roof repair or replacement even though they were reportedly not licensed by the State of Illinois as roofing contractors. One homeowner paid in full a contract for $1,700 but has been unsuccessful in getting them to return to her home to fix a still-leaking roof. Another homeowner said leaks soon developed in a roof installed by Smith and Triplett at a cost of more than $13,000. Unable to reach the defendants to seek repairs, the consumer incurred additional costs to have the leak repaired by another company.

Last October, another consumer was informed that a supplier had placed a mechanic’s lien on her home after Smith and Triplett allegedly failed to pay for the materials used on her project.

Madigan said Smith and Triplett did not just target high-end contracts. One senior citizen planned to replace one window at a time at her home and paid $200 for the first job. To date, no window has been installed and calls to Smith and Triplett have reportedly not been answered.

Madigan’s suit seeks a permanent injunction against the defendants from engaging in the home repair and remodeling business and from further violations of Illinois’ consumer protection laws.

The suit also seeks restitution, a civil penalty of $50,000 and an additional $50,000 per violation found to be committed with the intent to defraud. In addition, Madigan is asking the court to impose a civil penalty of $10,000 per violation committed against victims who are 65 or older.