The managers of two local construction contractors that were shut down by court order in August continued fraudulent practices under a new name, the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs alleged earlier this month.
Last year the state accused AAA Reliable, Inc., and Old Reliable, LLC, of a number of “unconscionable” business practices, resulting in an order prohibiting them from advertising or contracting services outside their own property. The principal of both companies, Sulejman Lita, was also named as a defendant in the suit.
Among the charges is that, under the pretense of providing chimney cleaning services, the contractors damaged clients’ chimneys and then “engaged in high pressure sales tactics” to induce customers into paying as much as $20,000 to repair damages the contractors had caused themselves.
Other charges include various alleged misrepresentations the companies made in advertisements, such as AAA Reliable falsely claiming Better Business Bureau accreditation when in fact the bureau had given them it an “F” rating.
Less than a month after the state shut down the website and froze the assets of Lita’s companies, as well as prohibiting them from conducting business, it alleges that individuals involved with the management of the two contractors formed a new company, A Safeway Construction, Inc., to skirt the restraining order and continue similar fraudulent practices.
Among the individuals named in the complaint is Liman Lita, who the state believes is related to the principal of AAA Reliable and Old Reliable, and ran the day-to-day operations of the two companies during the time it alleges the illegal business methods were practiced.
The state amended the original complaint earlier this month to reflect what it believes was the continued operation of the original businesses under a new name.
“As a result of our ongoing investigation, new companies have been added to our lawsuit,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said in a statement. “We are working to hold these defendants accountable for their continuing deceptive business practices and to obtain restitution for the affected consumers.”
The state’s complaint asserts that the businesses involved, all of which apparently operated out of the same Fair Lawn address on Lincoln Avenue as well addresses in Franklin Lakes, North Haledon, and Totowa, were operated by the same group of individuals with little division between the various registered businesses.
The state alleges that the group “used their various business entities in an overlapping and almost interchangeable manner,” with checks addressed to one at times being deposited in another’s account. The owners are also accused of operating under the radar of authorities by working without required permits or inspections and listing an unregistered business name on some of their contracts.
The director of A Safeway Construction is currently listed as John Nelson, who the state alleges has close contacts to AAA Reliable, and appears in a mug shot for an unrelated narcotics arrest wearing a shirt with the company’s name on it.
A Safeway Construction has been put under the same restraining order as the others, prohibiting advertising services and construction work outside of company property.
Consumers who believe they have been defrauded by the defendants can file complaints with the Division of Consumer Affairs. Complaints can be made online or by calling the Division office at (973) 504-6200.
In a release, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs Eric Kanefsky said, “These defendants will find that any attempt to circumvent the law and/or any Court ruling is a losing game.”
The attorney for the defendants was not immediately available for comment.