A.G. Schneiderman Announces Judgment Against Buffalo Area Home Improvement Contractor Following AG Lawsuit
John Kniery, Owner Of Tree Service By John, Bilked New Yorkers Out Of $10,000
Court Orders Kniery To Pay Full Restitution And $34,500 In Penalties And Fees
Judgement Bars Kniery From The Home Improvement Business Unless He Posts $50,000 Bond; Also Bars Him From Taking Advance Payments Until He Pays Restitution, Penalties, And Fees
Schneiderman Offers Tips To Protect New Yorkers Seeking Home Improvement Contracting Services
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced that his office won a lawsuit for consumers against John Kniery, a Buffalo-based home improvement contractor that bilked New Yorkers out of over $10,000. Kniery, who did business as Tree Service by John, must now pay $10,000 in restitution to consumers and $34,500 in penalties and costs.
An investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s office uncovered that Kniery defrauded consumers by taking deposits and keeping their money without performing the tree removal services he was contracted to do, or by performing shoddy work. In addition to the restitution and penalties, the order issued by New York State Supreme Court Justice Tracey A. Bannister bans Kniery from engaging in any business in New York until he posts a $50,000 insurance bond. The bond will protect consumers and ensure that they can file a claim against Kniery to get their money back if he fails to perform the work. Additionally, the court order completely bans Kniery from accepting advance payments from consumers until he pays all restitution, penalties, and fees.
“Thanks to our partnership with local law enforcement, impacted Buffalo consumers will get the restitution they deserve,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office will continue working to ensure that New Yorkers who pay for home contracting services receive them in a timely and professional manner. If contractors provide anything less, consumers should report them to my office right away.”
The Attorney General launched an investigation into Kniery's business practices following a recommendation from Detective Howard Wilman of the Hamburg Police Department. After receiving and investigating two complaints about Kniery, Detective Wilman investigated whether there were other criminal complaints against the contractor. Wilman found 16 additional complaints to law enforcement relating to Kniery’s tree service business. Consumers consistently complained that Kneiry did not do work for which he was paid, failed to complete jobs, or executed work in a shoddy manner. As a result, consumers lost hundreds of dollars. In one case, a consumer paid Kniery $2,000 in advance payments to remove several trees from his property. Kniery did not cut down all of the trees, nor did he remove any tree debris from the consumers property, rendering the backyard unusable. Kniery did not complete the work despite repeated calls from the consumer, who ended up paying another company $350 to remove the debris from his yard.
Consumers who have not already filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office and believe they may have been defrauded by John Kniery should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Help Line in the Buffalo Regional Office at (716) -853-8404 or file an online complaint.
The Attorney General encourages homeowners to consider the following tips when planning to use a home improvement contractor:
- Never agree to have work done on the spot, especially when potential contractors are marketing door-to-door
- Determine exactly what you want done, then look for 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
Additional information on how to avoid fraudulent home improvement contractors can be found online.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General James M. Morrissey, Karen Davis, Senior Consumer Fraud Representative, and Legal Intern Nathan Woodard in the Buffalo Regional Office. The Buffalo Regional Office is led by Assistant Attorney General In Charge Michael Russo. The Division of Regional Offices is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Marty Mack.