Two Fair Lawn-based home improvement companies that face a state lawsuit for allegedly defrauding dozens of customers have agreed to temporarily halt advertising initiatives and stop taking on new projects, New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced Wednesday.
and Old Reliable Construction, LLC, both allegedly located at 25 Lincoln Ave., are temporarily barred from advertising, selling or performing home improvements and have had their company assets frozen and website disabled. In addition to their Fair Lawn address, the companies, which specialize in chimney repair, roofing repair and gutter cleaning, according to the suit, also maintained business addresses in Franklin Lakes, North Haledon and Totowa.
Each company and their principal, Suleiman Lita, 35, of North Haledon, whom the state alleges oversaw management of both companies, stand accused of not performing contracted-for work or performing substandard chimney contract work that created potentially hazardous conditions inside customers’ homes.
In some cases, company workers are accused of damaging or destroying chimneys not in need of repair with the intention of coercing homeowners into signing off on additional repair contracts worth upwards of $20,000.
The state’s complaint, filed Friday in State Superior Court in Hackensack, comes on the heels of more than 50 consumer complaints made against both companies and contends that the companies violated the Consumer Fraud Act, Contractors’ Registration Act, contractor registration regulations, home improvement regulations and advertising regulations.
“The alleged actions of these defendants are simply egregious,” Attorney General Chiesa said in a statement. “Upon the pretense of performing inexpensive chimney and gutter cleaning, the defendants allegedly caused deliberate damage and destruction in order to enrich themselves by defrauding consumers of their hard-earned money.”
Eric Kanefsky, the acting director of Consumer Affairs, said the companies targeted senior citizens by offering purported home improvement discounts on the AAA Reliable website and in its Yellow Pages and direct mail marketing advertisements.
The state’s complaint alleges that when consumers contacted the companies in response to coupons, they were either told the work could not be performed at the advertised price, or told, following a roof inspection, that customers had serious problems with their chimneys that required more costly repairs.
“Rather than saving money,” Kanefsky said in a statement, “our lawsuit contends that senior citizens lost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars through the pre-meditated destruction and substandard work carried out by these defendants.”
The lawyer for AAA Reliable, J. Barry Cocoziello, told NorthJersey.com that his client’s agreement to discontinue advertising and refrain from taking new jobs was not an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
About 20 AAA Reliable contractors were outside of the company’s Lincoln Ave. location on Thursday morning, performing work on premises. A man who appeared to be in charge of the operation declined comment on the state’s lawsuit. When asked whether the company had ceased taking on new contracting jobs, he told Patch to leave the property.
Jeff Lamm, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said that according to the judge’s orders, effective Aug. 1, AAA Reliable cannot advertise or perform work on houses, but is permitted to continue working on its own property.
Any consumers who believe they may have been defrauded by either company can file complaints with the Division of Consumer Affairs by calling 800-242-5846 or 973-504-6200, or filling out a form at the Division’s website.