August 9, 2002

AUGUST 9, 2002 Carlos Diaz, Assistant Attorney General 207-626-8846

Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today that his office has won a lawsuit in Cumberland County Superior Court against a fraudulent home repair contractor. The lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General's Office last August, alleged that contractor Alfred Verdone intentionally defrauded nine homeowners in Cumberland and Androscoggin Counties, all in violation of the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act and state law regulating home repair contracts. The fraud consisted of failing to perform work that was paid for, shoddy workmanship, and failing to provide proper written contracts.

On July 15, 2002, the Superior Court granted judgment by default to the State as a sanction against Verdone for failing to comply with an order to turn over documents relating to the lawsuit. The Court found that Verdone's business practices were intentionally deceptive, unfair and fraudulent, and that he intentionally failed to disclose important information to the homeowners. The Court prohibited Verdone from contracting to perform home repairs in Maine in the future. The Court also imposed a $45,000 fine against Verdone and ordered him to pay $54,323 in restitution for the defrauded homeowners.

According to the lawsuit, Verdone advertised his home repair services in local newspapers and periodicals under several different business names, including AAA Contracting and Painting and A&C Painting and Construction. He falsely told homeowners that he was a home repair expert, that he used only licensed electricians and plumbers, and that all of his work was guaranteed. In many instances he gave fake names and addresses. He did not provide written contracts, or provided contracts that were incomplete, and he required a down payment of more than one-third of the total price, all of which is prohibited under state law. Verdone's workmanship was so poor that several of the homeowners had to hire another contractor to do the job over again. He frequently violated building codes and safety regulations. He failed to respond when the homeowners complained, and refused to refund their money.

Under the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act, the Attorney General may sue any contractor who violates state home repair law, or engages in any other fraudulent practices in the course of business. All home repair contracts for more than $1,400 must be in writing, must be signed by both parties, and must include a description of the work to be done, the price and method of payment, the dates for beginning and completing the work, a statement of how disputes will be resolved, and a warranty statement. Any changes to the original contract must also be in writing.

While the State does not currently require contractors to be licensed like plumbers and electricians, the Attorney General's Office is working with a broad coalition to promote the adoption of contractor licensing and a statewide residential building code. Maine people interested in this effort should call Chuck Dow at the Attorney General's Office at 626-8577.

The Attorney General's Consumer Mediation Service receives an average of 175 consumer complaints against home repair contractors in Maine each year.

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Diaz, who handled the Verdone case for the State said, "While it is great to put a bad contractor out of business, consumers would be much better protected if he had been kept out of the business to begin with. Consumers need licensed contractors they can count on."