by Jon Michael Probstein on Jun. 13, 2018

Consumer Rights Lawsuit & Dispute  Dispute Resolution Criminal  Misdemeanor 

Summary: Dealing with unlicensed home improvement contractors

I have had this experience personally: an unlicensed home improvement contractor in New York City, Nassau and Suffolk County, and other surrounding counties, cannot sue homeowners for non-payment of its bills for services rendered or file a mechanic's lien, etc. This law was enacted to protect homeowners from unscrupulous construction contractors and its solicitors. Even where the homeowner knew that the contractor was unlicensed prior to the performance of the work, courts have still prevented the contractor from suing for payment, consistently holding that contracts made by unlicensed home improvement contractors are illegal and unenforceable. To determine whether a home improvement contractor is licensed, contact your county's Department of Consumer Affairs.

But what if you paid the contractor some money upfront? I made an upfront payment and no work was performed (it was a small job, only $300 was involved, but this proves that even attorneys make foolish mistakes). Certainly, one can sue in small claims or another court for a return of payment. But what are the chances of collecting on a judgment? Defendants who operate a business illegally usually hide assets, thus making enforcement of a judgment nearly impossible. What I did was contact the District Attorney's office and filed a complaint for operating a home improvement business without a license, a misdemeanor. The Nassau County District Attorney arrested the contractor and made a plea bargain deal (this took over a year) in which the contractor agreed to return my money - which the contractor never did. In fact, I am assuming that after the plea bargain was made, the contractor moved to another location as the District Attorney, after I advised them that the plea bargain payment deal was never complied with, advised me that they could not locate the contractor. But here is a story from July 21, 2009, North County Gazette:

"NASSAU COUNTY—A five-week investigation into unlicensed contractors in Nassau County has resulted in the arrest of 42 individuals.

Four face felony charges, including third degree grand larceny for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars from homeowners for improvements that were either not finished or never even started.

Investigators also rented a home in Nassau County and called in unlicensed contractors to perform “renovations.” The two-week operation yielded 12 charges of Operating a Home Improvement Business without a License, a misdemeanor, and the contractors’ vehicles were seized under the County Forfeiture Law. Twenty-six contractors were charged with the same misdemeanor after an investigation into complaints filed with Consumer Affairs.

The arrests were part of a multi-county enforcement sweep also executed in New York City and Westchester County.

“When you hire an unlicensed contractor, you’re rolling the dice,” Rice said, adding that consumers should thoroughly research home contractors before someone is hired. “Our homes are our most valuable financial asset and it is essential we entrust them to licensed, experienced professionals. Don’t let your American Dream become a nightmare.”

Facing felony charges are:

Derek Armstrong, 47 of Hempstead, was charged with second degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, falsifying business records and first degree offering a false instrument for. District attorney Kathleen Rice said Armstrong was hired by a Baldwin homeowner to do work on his home in 2005. Armstrong submitted the architect’s plans to the Town of Hempstead to obtain a permit, but the architect refused to work with Armstrong, who then put a different architect’s name and seal on the plans. The plans were also altered. He faces up to seven years in prison.

Edward Murphy, 42, of Wantagh, was charged with third degree grand larceny. Rice said Murphy was contracted to purchase backup generators for two group homes for autistic adults in Seaford and East Meadow. Murphy was paid $28,000, but never provided the homes with the generators or a refund. He faces up to seven years in prison.

John Napolitano, 47, of Hicksville, was charged with four counts of third degree grand larceny and first degree scheme to defraud. Rice said Napolitano defrauded four different homeowners of more than $113,000. Napolitano either took money and never performed any work at all or abandoned a project halfway through. One Long Beach homeowner had her entire kitchen demolished when Napolitano stopped work and didn’t refund her any money. He faces up to seven years in prison.

James Nichols, 46, of Rosedale, was charged with third degree grand larceny. Rice said Nichols received $47,500 from a homeowner to add an addition to his Elmont home. Nichols performed no work and did not refund the money. Nichols faces up to seven years in prison.

Charged with Operating a Home Improvement Business without a License in the house sting are Roberto Dopazo, 47, of Huntington; Donald Colucci, 57, of North Babylon; Jedidiah Irons, 22, of Oceanside; James Contrino, 33, of Oceanside; Debra Kaplan, 44, of Massapequa; George Brady, 55, of Queens; Manuel Vera-Munoz, 43, of South Farmingdale; Thomas Gallo, 48, of Levittown; Ronald Hinderhofer, 49, of Oceanside; Thomas Longo, 38, of North Merrick; Muzaffer Geyikgulo, 54, of Valley Stream; and Luis Saquipulla, 36, of Corona. All face up to a year in jail.

Working in conjunction with the Nassau County Department of Consumer Affairs, the following people were charged with Operating a Home Improvement Business without a License after complaints were lodged with Consumer Affairs by homeowners:

Thomas Gironda, 40, of Port Jefferson Station; Arthur Spero, 47, of Wantagh; Lionel Toby, 51, of Long Beach; Joseph Sarno, 69, of Bayside; Bohdan Kuzminskyy, 48, of Holbrook; Joseph Samaroo, 49, of Cedarhurst; Rod Darling, 41, of Hempstead; Christopher Martino, 39, of Lynbrook; Eladio Otero, 61, of Malverne; Yojin Choi, 44, of Great Neck; George Stern, 60, of Syosset; Nicholas Spano, 46, of East Meadow; Louis Hapst, 43, of Copiague; Ramadan Nela, 46, of Dix Hills; Russell Martini, 31, of Westbury; George Lopez, 40, of Oceanside; Edward Hoffman, 46, of Islandia; Anthony Delmaro, 37, of Deer Park; John Bradford, 44, of East Rockaway; Rulx Regala, 39, of Bohemia; Larry Field, 46, of Elmont; Christopher J. Galvin, 46, of West Babylon; Thomas Heaney, 42, of Farmingdale; Adolph Ford, 63, of Hempstead; Daniel Dallolio, 43, of North Bellmore; Joseph Sceppa, 39, of Commack. All face up to a year in jail."

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