Point Pleasant, Pleasantville contractors accused of Sandy fraud
Home repair businesses operated by an Ocean County father and son, and by an Atlantic County man, draw scrutiny by New Jersey investigators amid allegations of Superstorm Sandy-related fraud amounting to more than $1,400,000 in federal grants.
Shore HL, Inc., trading as Shore House Lifters, operated by Paul Zaidinski Sr. and Paul Zaidinski Jr. of Point Pleasant, and Atlantic Coast Housing Lifting LLC and George Rex Construction LLC, operated by George Rex of Pleasantville, are identified in civil complaints filed by state Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino's office and the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA).
The companies and principals are accused of deceptive business practices affecting 51 clients who paid for home repairs and elevations. Investigators claim the work was either not done, performed poorly, or left incomplete.
Allegations include violations of the Consumer Fraud Act, Contractors' Registration Act, and regulations governing contractor registration, home elevation, home improvement and advertising.
The filings bring the number of contractors subject to Superstorm-related civil actions agaisnt contractors to seven, according to Porrino's office.
Part of the payments submitted by alleged victims stemmed from federal Sandy relief grants distributed by DCA. Forty-eight involve Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) funds, and three involve the Landlord Rental Repair Program (LRRP).
DCA authorities said they fielded 51 consumer complaints regarding the Zaidinskis, including 42 by RREM recipients claiming a total of $1,046,451, and three LLRP grantees who claimed to have lost an aggregate $79,257. Six RREM recipients claimed to have lost $277,100 through Rex's companies.
State officials seek resitution for the clients, return of RREM and LRRP funds to DCA, reimbursement of attorney fees and costs, and civil penalties.
They also seek to permanently revoke the companies' home improvement contractor and home elevation contractor registrations; to canel the New Jersey certificates of formation for Atlantic Coast House Lifting and George Rex Construction; to permanently vacate or annul the Shore HL corporate charter; and to permanently ban the Zaidinskis and Rex from owning or operating home improvement or home elevation businesses, or advertising or performing work connected to each practice, in New Jersey.
Specifically, Shore House Lifters is expected to answer accusations of:
- Performing home improvements and/or home elevations in a substandard manner, including improperly disconnecting water and sewer lines, improperly repairing a front staircase, and spilling concrete on a back deck and driveway.
- Failing to properly complete home elevation projects, which in some instances resulted in the homes failing required municipal inspections, and thereby preventing consumers from moving back into their homes.
- Performing home elevation work and/or home improvements contrary to current codes, or without adhering to the agreed upon engineering plans, resulting in delays in the completion of the work.
- Abandoning home elevation projects while the homes were raised on temporary supports, resulting in consumers not having any access to their homes for a lengthy period of time.
- Failing to complete the contracted for home elevation work and/or home improvements, thus requiring the consumers to complete the work themselves, or to hire another contractor, all at an additional cost to the consumers.
- Failing to honor the statutorily required cancellation clause in the Shore HL Contract.
- Agreeing to provide consumers with a refund of RREM funds after the consumer cancelled the Shore HL Contract due to the failure to commence or complete the work, but then failing to provide such refunds.
Claims against Atlantic Coast House Lifting and George Rex Construction include:
- Performing home improvements and/or home elevations in a substandard manner, including constructing structurally unsafe walls, failing to build floors at the proper elevation, and failing to install proper footings.
- Abandoning projects and leaving homes uninhabitable.
- Failing to complete work, thus requiring that consumers live in only part of their house.
- On at least one occasion, after abandoning work, asking a consumer to sign a contract release agreement and to sign a new contract with one of the defendants' subcontractors, which would exceed the original price to be paid to defendants.
- On at least one occasion, failing to complete work, thus requiring a consumer to hire other contractors to correct and complete the work performed by defendants, at substantial additional costs to the consumer.
- On at least one occasion, failing to pay a subcontractor which resulted in the consumer being issued a "stop work order" and requiring that the consumer pay the subcontractor directly.
State authorities did not indicate legal representation for the defendants. The state's case against Shore HL is led by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Koziar. Deputy Attorney General Mark Critchley heads the Atlantic Coast House Lifting complaint.
Suspicions of deceptive business practice and other consumer complaints can be filed through the DCA's online complaint form, or by phone at 1-800-242-5846 or 973-504-6200.
Charges are allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless, and until, found guilty in a court of law.