|NEWARK – The Office of the Attorney General and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs have obtained a $6.34 million default judgment against Anthony Angelo Pizza of Rutherford and two home improvement companies he operated, A. Pizza Contracting, LLC and AP Building & Construction, LLC, a/k/a “AP Builders & Construction, LLC,” after a judge found that they committed 571 violations of the State’s consumer protection laws and regulations.
The Final Order on Default provides for $585,395.74 in consumer restitution, $5,710,000 in civil penalties and $39,625.52 in attorneys’ fees and costs. The State has arranged for the filing of the Final Order on Default as a statewide lien against the assets of Pizza and his companies.
Under the Order issued by State Superior Court Judge Robert P. Contillo, Pizza also is permanently barred from advertising, offering for sale, selling and/or performing home improvements in New Jersey and from owning, operating or otherwise managing any business performing home improvements in New Jersey. Additionally, the business certificates of his two companies were permanently cancelled. The companies maintained business locations in Clifton and Rutherford.
“Through our efforts, this unscrupulous contractor is banned from owning or operating home improvement companies,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “Our focus now will be on identifying assets that we can obtain and liquidate to provide restitution to consumers who did not receive home improvements for which they paid and which Pizza promised to complete.”
In complaints submitted to the Division, consumers alleged that Pizza and/or his companies failed to perform home improvement work and/or performed substandard work, despite payment being made. In addition, Pizza used home improvement contracts that failed to include required information such as signatures, a description of the work, start and stop dates, and cancellation information.
“Consumer complaints relating to home improvement were our largest single category of complaints last year,” said Steve Lee, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. “The Division is always working to help consumers identify warning signs of consumer fraud, such as those alleged in the case of Pizza and his companies.”
In October 2014, the State filed its seven-count complaint in State Superior Court in Bergen County, alleging that AP Building & Construction, LLC performed work, even though it was never registered as a home improvement contractor with the Division. In addition, the State alleged that A. Pizza Contracting, LLC failed to maintain commercial general liability insurance and failed to disclose a civil judgment on its annual home improvement contractor registration renewal application as required.
In its filed complaint, the State alleged that Pizza and his companies:
- Failed to begin and/or complete work on the agreed upon date or within the time period represented orally or in the home improvement contract;
- Failed to respond to consumers’ calls, e-mails and/or texts inquiring into when work would begin or when work that was abandoned would continue;
- Commenced home improvement work without confirming that any requisite permits had been issued;
- Failed to arrange for the required inspections of the home improvement work for which permits should have been issued;
- Accelerated previously agreed-upon payment schedules and obtained complete payment without the work being completed;
- Failed to provide, upon request of the consumer, copies of invoices evidencing that Pizza and his companies ordered and/or purchased building materials (e.g., fixtures, cabinets, roof tiles) with accelerated and/or additional funds the consumer had provided to Pizza and his companies for that purpose;
- Stopped the contracted-for home improvement work, and then informed consumers that they would not continue the work unless the consumers paid additional money;
- Accepted a down payment for home improvement work under the condition that if a municipality denied a requested permit, Pizza and his companies would return the down payment, but then failed to do so;
- Installed a product that was different than what was agreed upon without consumers’ consent (e.g., installed used floors and windows, the wrong model door, the wrong color shingles);
- Performed home improvements in a substandard manner and failed to make the necessary corrective repairs;
- Caused damage to a consumer’s home while performing home improvements and then failed to fix, clean, or compensate the consumer for the damage;
- Represented that they would return to the consumers’ homes and make the necessary corrective repairs, but then failed to do so;
- Failed to return the consumers’ calls when consumers attempted to contact Pizza and his companies regarding, among other things, substandard work; and
- Refused to issue refunds when requested by consumers after Pizza and his companies failed to perform the contracted-for home improvement work.
In the Final Order on Default, the Court found that Pizza and his companies engaged in conduct which comprised 571 violations of the Consumer Fraud Act (unconscionable commercial practices, false promises and/or misrepresentations), the Contractors’ Registration Act, the Contractors’ Registration Regulations, and the Home Improvement Regulations.
Investigator Jared O’Cone in the Division of Consumer Affairs Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Cathleen O’Donnell in the Division of Law’s Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section represented the State in this action.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint online at the Division’s website, www.njconsumeraffairs.gov or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
To learn more about how to hire a home improvement contractors, and how to spot the potential red flags of a possible scam, read the Division’s Consumer Brief here: www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/News/Consumer%20Briefs/hiring-home-improvement-contractors.pdf.