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State secures $6.34M judgment against Rutherford contractor

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A judge in Hackensack ordered a Rutherford home improvement contractor to pay $6.34 million for not registering or having insurance, among 571 violations of the state’s consumer protection laws and regulations.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs obtained the judgment against Anthony Angelo Pizza and two home improvement companies he operated, A. Pizza Contracting, LLC and AP Building & Construction, LLC, a/k/a “AP Builders & Construction, LLC.”

The breakdown:

$585,395.74 in consumer restitution;
$5,710,000 in civil penalties;
$39,625.52 for attorneys’ fees and costs.

State authorities said they were filing a statewide lien against the assets of Pizza and his companies in Clifton and Rutherford.

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,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said this morning.

Additionally, the business certificates of his two companies were permanently cancelled.

“Through our efforts, this unscrupulous contractor is banned from owning or operating home improvement companies,” 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.”

Among other things, the state’s seven-count complaint filed in Superior Court in Hackensack last October charged that AP Building & Construction, LLC did work without registering as a home improvement contractor with the Division of Consumer Affairs. It also says that A. Pizza Contracting, LLC “failed to maintain commercial general liability insurance and failed to disclose a civil judgment on its annual registration renewal application as required.”

Consumers alleged substandard work — “or even that no work was undertaken despite payment being made,” among other violations.

Certain contracts “failed to include required information such as signatures, a description of the work, start and stop dates and cancellation information,” state authorities said.

“When homeowners spend their hard-earned dollars on renovations, they expect to add value to their biggest investment and gain new pride and pleasure from their homes,” Hoffman said after the complaint was filed.

Pizza, however, “hung customers out to dry, leaving them instead with nothing but headaches and holes in their bank accounts,” he said.

“A. Pizza Contracting LLC abandoned our job after collecting all of our money ahead of schedule and has left us with a master suite to finish that we paid him for!” one customer wrote (photo, top).

“Anthony Pizza has left us with no heat, no electricity, no bathtub, no toilet, no vanity or sinks, no fixtures, no fireplace insert or mantle,” the customer added. “F]loor is not level, tile work is sloppy and incorrect, (they put an air conditioning vent in our shower!), ceiling is uneven and not level, windows were ordered and installed with wrong exterior color (painting them will invalidate the warranty) and retaining wall was not built to contracted specifications and now we have dirt flowing onto our driveway every time it rains and our yard above the retaining wall is sinking.

“Tile work was sloppy, incomplete and in some case[s] in wrong place and now we have to rip it off wall and have it re-done.

“We paid A. Pizza Contracting ahead of schedule because of continued assurances from Anthony Pizza and Tyrone Waddel and we believed their various lies and excuses,” the online complaint adds. “As soon as they had our money they stopped showing up and left us with more than $30,000 of unfinished work and undelivered materials that we had already paid them for.”

Among the violations alleged by state authorities:

· Failing to begin and/or complete work on the agreed upon date or time period represented orally or in the home improvement contract;

· Failing to respond to consumers’ calls, e-mails and/or texts inquiring into when work would begin or continue home improvement work that they had already commenced, but then been abandoned;

· Commencing home improvement work without confirming that any requisite permits had been issued;

· Failing to arrange for the required inspections of the home improvement work for which permits should have been issued and obtaining complete payment from consumers;

· Accelerating previously agreed-upon payment schedules and obtaining complete payment without the work being completed;

· Failing 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;

· Stopping the contracted-for home improvement work, and then informing consumers that they would not continue the work unless the consumers paid additional money;

· Accepting 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 failing to do so;

· Installing a product that was different than what was agreed upon without consumers’ consent (e.g., used floors and windows, the wrong model door, the wrong color shingles);

· Performing home improvements in a substandard manner and failing to make the necessary corrective repairs including, but not limited to: (a) installing gutters that leaked; (b) failing to install Tyvek paper under siding; (c) replacing a driveway that shortly developed large cracks and craters; (d) failing to properly seal surfaces or to install flashing; (e) installing siding improperly as to void the warranty; and (f) repairing leaks in a manner as to make the leaks worse;

· Causing damage to a consumer’s home while performing home improvements and then failing to fix, clean, or compensate the consumer for the damage (e.g., allowing concrete splatter to dry on various surfaces; putting holes in screens, failing to place a tarp on open areas causing water damage;);

· Representing that they would return to the consumers’ homes and make the necessary corrective repairs, but then failing to do so;

· Failing to return the consumers’ calls when consumers attempted to contact Pizza and his companies regarding, among other things, substandard work; and

· Refusing to issue refunds when requested by consumers after Pizza and his companies failed to perform the contracted-for home improvement work.

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 is representing the state.

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