A.G. Schneiderman Announces Temporary Restraining Order Against Home Improvement Contractor For Allegedly Scamming Consumers
Phillip Fox Allegedly Collected Thousands From Elderly Victims For Unnecessary, Shoddy Or Incomplete Work
Schneiderman: Fraudulent Contractors Who Prey On Unsuspecting New Yorkers Will Be Held Accountable
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced a lawsuit against Phillip Fox, a Western New York home improvement contractor who scammed dozens of consumers.
According to the court papers, Fox, collected thousands of dollars for home repairs that he never provided. The petition also alleges that when Fox did home improvement, his work was shoddy and that, when targeting the elderly, he charged outrageous prices for work that did not need to be done.
“To defraud hardworking New Yorkers who are seeking a home improvement contractor is illegal and wrong, but to deliberately target the elderly when scamming consumers is reprehensible,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “We will keep working to ensure that fraudulent home contractors who prey on unsuspecting New Yorkers will be held accountable.”
In one case, Fox preyed on two elderly sisters, one 85 years old and legally blind, and the other 88 years old. The sisters had just moved into their home which, by all accounts, was in excellent condition and required little or no repairs. Fox, under the guise of offering snow plowing services, got his foot in their door and took more than $80,000 from the sisters for work that he has not done, or simply did not need to be done, or, for which Fox charged an outrageous amount of money. For example, Fox charged the sisters $7,390 to power wash and stain their fence and apply a sealer; $3,410 to install a basement door; and $2,415 for molding.
In another case, an elderly consumer agreed to pay Fox $8,500 to replace his driveway and garage floor. Fox ripped out the concrete but did not return. When the consumer called him, Fox told him he needed another $2,100 to deliver the crushed stone. After delivering the stone, Fox told the consumer he needed another $3,000 to pour the concrete but he never did. The consumer had to pay another contractor $6,000 to correct Fox’s shoddy work and pour the concrete.
The Court granted Attorney General Schneiderman’s request to immediately freeze Fox’s bank accounts and prohibit him from accepting any advance payments from consumers while the Court hears the case. Schneiderman’s office is seeking a court order barring Fox from the home improvement industry unless he posts a $250,000 bond. The lawsuit also seeks refunds for consumers and civil penalties for Fox’s violations of consumer protection laws and conduct which targeted elderly consumers.
The Attorney General suggests that consumers follow these recommendations when dealing with home contractors:
- Never agree to have work done on the spot, especially when potential contractors are door-to-door marketing; determine exactly what you want done, then seek out a qualified contractor;
- Shop around; get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided;
- Ask for references: check with the Better Business Bureau, banks, suppliers, and neighbors; always contact any references provided to you;
- Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed;
- Do not pay unreasonable advance sums: negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job; never pay the full price up front;
- Remember that you have three days to cancel after signing a home improvement contract, but all cancellations must be in writing; and
- Individuals with complaints against Fox should contact the Attorney General’s consumer help line at (800) 771-7755 or his Buffalo Regional Office at (716) 853-8404.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey and Karen Davis, Senior Consumer Fraud Representative in the Buffalo Regional Office which is led by Michael Russo, Assistant Attorney General In Charge. The Buffalo Regional Office is a part of the Division of Regional Offices, led by Martin J. Mack, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Offices.