|NEWARK – A Superior Court Judge on May 31 ordered a North Jersey businessman who sells, installs and repairs blinds and draperies, among other products and services, to pay $13,800 in consumer restitution and $340,000 in civil penalties after finding that he violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act and Home Improvement Contractors’ Registration Act.
Judge Harriet Klein in Essex County found that defendant Mitchell Poller, 57, of North Caldwell, committed multiple violations of the consumer protection laws, including failing to provide contracted-for services, not returning deposits or down payments when services were not provided, not delivering furniture that consumers had purchased, among other violations, and performing home improvement contracting without being registered with the State.
“Poller offered to install and repair draperies but in reality he fleeced consumers through his systemic pattern of fraud and lies,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. “Poller broke laws that are in place to protect consumers and we have held him accountable for the frauds he committed.”
The Court’s ruling was based on evidence produced by the investigation conducted by the Division of Consumer Affairs. The evidence included numerous complaints filed with the Division by defrauded consumers. Judge Klein also noted that Poller’s own advertisements stating that he did installation and repairs refuted his court testimony that he merely cleaned draperies and thus did not need to be registered as a home improvement contractor.
In their filed complaints, some consumers also stated that Poller failed to return items taken from their homes for cleaning. Items only were returned following repeated calls by consumers to Poller over an extended period of time.
Poller has conducted business under many different names in northern New Jersey, including American Draperies and Blinds, American Draperies and Blind Company, Countrywide Draperies and Blinds, Country Wide Draperies and Blinds, Affordable Draperies and Blinds, Affordable Drapery and Blind Company, and The Drapery and Blind Company.
The Court found that Poller was required to register as a Home Improvement Contractor in order to perform installation of new flooring, drapes or window treatments, under terms of the state’s Home Improvement Contractors’ Registration Act.
“This case shows why consumers need to verify whether someone is registered as a home improvement contractor, as part of their research and due diligence,” said Eric T. Kanefsky, Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. “Consumers should call us and inquire whether any consumer complaints have been filed against a business.”
Kanefsky noted that complaints related to home improvement contractors were the second largest category of consumer complaints last year, only exceeded by price gouging complaints resulting from Superstorm Sandy.
The Court will determine the amount of reimbursement that Poller will pay to the State for its legal and investigative costs.
Consumers can check whether a contractor is registered via a searchable database on the Division’s website, located at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/LVinfo.htm.
Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Kant of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section in the Division of Law represented the state in this action. Investigator Raquel Williams led the investigation after Investigator Donna Leslie in the Office of Consumer Protection performed the initial phase.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
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