NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced on Friday that the operators of a South Jersey paving company have had their assets temporarily frozen to keep them from obtaining the proceeds of an auction.
In December, Williams Asphalt Materials LLC was ordered to pay $17 million in civil penalties, reimbursement for costs and fees, and consumer restitution for allegedly defrauding consumers in New Jersey. The operators of the company allegedly attempted to obtain cash through a voluntary auction of the company's assets in Jonesboro, Ark.
Nicholas Kant, New Jersey's deputy attorney general, traveled to Arkansas and made an application to prevent the turnover of the cash generated by the auction to the defendants and to secure the funds for the $285,744 owed to consumers in New Jersey.
Arkansas Circuit Judge John Fogleman issued a temporary injunction on March 30, the night before the auction, freezing the auction's proceeds. The auction was to be conducted on behalf of defendant Henry Williams. Later on March 30, to allegedly avoid the judgment of the state, the defendants' associates tried to remove the property that was to be auctioned.
The associates were arrested by Jonesboro police. The defendants then allegedly changed the auction contract hours before it was going to take place, listing five new sellers who were not defendants in the New Jersey case. The new sellers were allegedly all relatives or associates of Williams.
"This case shows the extent to which some defendants will go to avoid their legal obligation to repay the consumers that they have harmed," Chiesa said. "It also shows our determination to go after these bad actors and hold them responsible."
On Monday, Kant appeared in court in Jonesboro to argue that the auction proceeds should be due to New Jersey's consumers for restitution and would disappear if given to the defendants or their associates. Additionally, Kant alleged that the change to the auction contract the night before the auction and immediately after Fogleman issued the temporary injunction was fraudulent. Fogleman then ruled that all of the auction proceeds should be frozen for 60 days to preserve the funds while the court determined the destination of the funds.
In December, a Burlington County State Superior Court Judge found that defendants Williams Asphalt Materials LLC, Advanced Asphalt Services, Williams Paving Asphalt Contracting, Williams Paving, Williams Paving & Excavating, Williams Asphalt Paving & Excavating, Henry R. Williams, Jr. (father), Henry R. Williams, Jr. (son), Bertha Williams, Saul Williams, Samuel Williams and Alexander Stanley violated the state's Home Improvement Contractors' Regulation Act and the Consumer Fraud Act.
More than 1,600 violations were found to have been committed against consumers who paid the defendants to have their driveways repaved.
The division alleged that the defendants engaged in unconscionable commercial practices, made misrepresentations or false statements, engaged in bait and switch pricing, and knowingly omitted material facts. The alleged unconscionable commercial practices included performing paving work of sub-standard or poor quality, neglecting to make needed repairs and failing to honor warranties or guarantees provided in the home improvement contract signed with the consumer.
The alleged misrepresentations included representing to consumers that the materials or products used in the paving work were sufficient to withstand the traction and weight of motor vehicles when that was not actually the case and representing to consumers that the asphalt to be used was of a certain thickness while laying asphalt that was measurably thinner. Driveways that could have lasted years if paved properly started to disintegrate in a matter of months.