Madigan files storm suits

Nick Rees Feb. 11, 2010, 1:00pm


CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Lawsuits have been filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan against three Illinois businesses for allegedly exploiting natural disasters for personal profit.

The defendants, Madigan alleges, collectively defrauded Illinois consumers of more than $243,000 in down payments through their substandard work or by failing to complete renovations.

"In the days and weeks after severe storms, these con artists flood into our local communities and take advantage of stressed consumers, often pressuring them to make snap decisions about repairing the damage," Madigan said.

"We're taking action today to send the message that these practices are not welcome in Illinois. I urge homeowners who are confronting significant damage to their homes after a storm to be wary of door-to-door solicitations and instead use established, well-recommended contractors to perform the renovation."

The lawsuits, filed in Cook County, named the Schaumburg-based Fidelity Reconstruction LLC and Shel St. Clare, Richard Rinaolo and Robert Picchietti, as well as WeatherStorm Inc., a dissolved Indianapolis firm with offices in Illinois, Kerry Holland, Tim Bednarek, Robert Kennedy and Thomas Schwartz.

A lawsuit was also filed in Williamson County against Kentucky resident Betram Leo Snyder, operator of Quality Roofing and Siding and A-1 Construction in Carterville, Ill. Snyder is alleged to have coerced consumers to pay upfront without providing any cost estimated for projected work.

According to Madigan's complaint, the defendants would visit communities that were affected by severe storms, soliciting consumers door-to-door for home repair and remodeling services.

Homeowners were allegedly promised by the defendants that they would meet with insurance adjusters to ensure the consumers' insurance claim would cover storm damage and obtain an insurance check for the homeowner. The defendants then allegedly promised to start work once the insurance check is received.

The defendants' alleged actions, Madigan contends, violated the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business practices Act and the Home Repair and Remodeling Act by accepting insurance payments from consumers and then providing substandard or incomplete work. In some cases, the defendants failed to perform any work, Madigan says.

Madigan asks the court, in each case, to permanently enjoin the defendants from engaging in the home repair trade in Illinois.

The court is also asked to order restitution to consumers, a civil penalty of $50,000 per defendant, additional penalties of $50,000 for each act committed with intent to defraud and $10,000 for each act committed against a senior citizen.

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