A.G. Schneiderman Files Suit Against Paving Company; Alleges Fraudulent, Deceptive Conduct
Tri-State Paving Allegedly Baited Consumers With Low Prices, Performed Shoddy Work, And Demanded More Money
Judge Orders Tri-State Paving To Stop All Work While Lawsuit Is Pending
A.G. Schneiderman Provides Tips For Consumers When Choosing A Home Improvement Contractor
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced a lawsuit against Tri-State Paving and its principals, Richard Attenborough, III and Stevee Paige Castle-Lagerquist. The suit alleges that they defrauded homeowners with a deceptive paving scheme and failed to comply with New York’s home improvement contractor laws. Based upon the evidence submitted to the court, Supreme Court Justice James P. McClusky issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the company from conducting or soliciting any paving business while the lawsuit is pending.
The Attorney General alleges that Tri-State and Attenborough have a longstanding pattern of deceiving homeowners. In a classic bait-and-switch scheme, Attenborough or another Tri-State employee are alleged to have falsely told consumers that they have “leftover” paving material from a nearby job, and then offered to pave all or a portion of the homeowner’s driveway at a low price or with no price estimate at all. Tri-State then performed substantially more work than what was agreed upon. The work was often substandard, or created paving issues for the homeowner, requiring more work. Afterward, the company demanded payment of much more money than discussed or agreed-upon.
The Attorney General’s investigation was initiated in the summer of 2016, after complaints were filed by homeowners in the North Country. Tri-State and Attenborough subsequently moved their operations to other regions, and it is alleged that they had been most recently deceiving homeowners in the greater Binghamton area.
“People’s homes are often their most valuable asset; the culmination of years of dreaming, planning, saving, and hard work,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “We will keep fighting to hold unscrupulous contractors accountable and ensure that hardworking New Yorkers do not fall victim to these scams.”
In support of the lawsuit, sworn statements from five victims of Tri-State’s predatory practices were submitted, together with records from multiple law enforcement agencies that have had contact with Attenborough for the same or similar conduct over a period of many years. In one instance, after being deceptively solicited by Tri-State, a homeowner agreed to have the company pave a four-foot section of his driveway, but Tri-State is alleged to have refused to provide a price quote. The company then proceeded to pave the entire driveway and demand payment of $9,200. In another case, the company is alleged to have deceptively solicited a homeowner to pave a driveway at a cost of $3,000. While the homeowner was still talking to the Tri-State representative and refusing all work, employees had already begun paving the driveway without his knowledge or authorization. Tri-State refused to remove the material put down, and demanded payment.
In New York, home improvement contractors—such as paving companies—are required to use contracts for any job that costs the homeowner more than $500. The contract must be signed by both parties and contain: proposed starting and completion dates; a description of the work to be completed; materials to be provided; total cost of the contract; and include a notice to the consumer of their unconditional three-day right to cancel the contract without penalty, among other items. Tri-State Paving compounded their illegal behavior by failing to use contracts in compliance with state law.
Home Improvement Fraud ranked eighth on the Office of the Attorney General’s top ten list of consumer frauds for 2016, with 1,606 complaints statewide. Rooting out and resolving these fraud cases is a top priority for Attorney General Schneiderman.
When planning to use a home improvement contractor, Attorney General Schneiderman urges consumers to consider the following tips:
- 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 on the Attorney General’s Website.
The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against Tri-State, Attenborough, and Castle-Lagerquist, prohibiting them from operating as home improvement contractors in New York State, restitution for the homeowners they defrauded, and penalties and costs to the state. A hearing is scheduled for June 26, 2017.
The Attorney General thanks the New York State Police for their assistance on this case.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Alicia M. Lendon, Investigator Chad Shelmidine, and Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Shane Williams, all of the Watertown Regional Office, with the assistance of Investigator Kathleen Coppersmith of the Binghamton Regional Office. The Watertown Regional Office is led by Assistant Attorney General In Charge Deanna R. Nelson and Marty Mack, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs.