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March 2004

Charges Announced Against Home Improvement Contractor

Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon and Nassau County Commissioner of Consumer Affairs Roger Bogsted today announced the arrest of a former home improvement contractor for Grand Larceny. In addition, they announced charges against 14 contractors for operating a home improvement business without a license.

"In each case," Dillon said, "homeowners were victimized by unscrupulous operators who took their money and then failed to satisfactorily complete the home improvements for which they were paid." "This once again underscores the need for homeowners to check with us to be sure a contractor is licensed before paying them any money," said Bogsted. "Homeowners should call Consumer Affairs at (516) 571-2600, to check the legitimacy of a home improvement contractor or to register a complaint about incomplete or unsatisfactory work."

Arrested today was John Valentine, 54, of 142 North Linden St., North Massapequa. According to Dillon, "Early in 2003, while doing business as J & J Kitchen Designs, Valentine entered into a contract with a senior citizen to do a kitchen and bathroom in her North Massapequa home. As he required that 40% of the contract be paid up front, the complainant gave him two checks totaling $7,731. The work was to commence on April 1, 2003. It did not, and the complainant did not hear from Valentine. She subsequently discovered that the business no longer existed. None of her money was ever returned, and our investigation has determined that the defendant used it to pay previous bills owed on other contracts. In another instance, the defendant accepted a $3,000 down payment from a Bethpage homeowner, then refused to return the money when the homeowner legally canceled the job." Valentine is charged with two counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a Class D Felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison.

Also arrested today and charged with Operating a Home Improvement Business Without a License were: Hazem (Hank) Elshazly, 39, doing business as Hank's Home Improvement, 358 Howell's Road, Bay Shore. In June 2003 Elshazly was paid $25,200 in cash to do extensive work on a Seaford home, including a new roof, gutters, vinyl siding, ceiling fans and plumbing. Immediately after the work was completed, shingles began coming off. An engineer hired by the owner to inspect the work found substantial problems that needed to be corrected. The work was not in compliance with state, county and town regulations. Gutters and siding were falling off, the plumbing was not completed, the ceiling fans were not installed, the framing was incomplete, and the chimney had to be re-flashed because it was leaking. Elshazly refused to make any corrections.

Vasos Antoniou, 51, of 108 Westminster Road, West Hempstead contracted with a Great Neck homeowner in June 2003 for a brick patio and repair and restructuring of steps leading to the patio. He was paid a $700 deposit toward the total cost of $2,000. However, he did not keep appointments to begin the work, which was never started. He promised to return the deposit, but never did so.

Also charged with Operating a Home Improvement Business Without a License are:

Arnold DiGregorio, 56, of 86 Fair St., Carmel, N.Y., contracted with a New Hyde Park homeowner to construct a dormer, two bedrooms and a bathroom, and also to do kitchen renovations. The homeowner paid him $26,400 of the total cost of $30,200. Work proceeded, but very sporadically, and DiGregorio continually asked the homeowner for more money, even though very little work had been completed. The roof was not properly covered during construction, resulting in serious water damage to the home when it rained. A ceiling collapsed, there was water damage in the dining room, bedrooms, and basement, and carpeting and mattresses were ruined. DiGregorio assured the homeowner that his insurance would cover the damage, but she subsequently found out that he had no insurance. Meanwhile, DiGregorio was not paying his subcontractors, who were threatening to put liens on the home. When the roof was finally completed it still leaked. The bathroom was not done to code, with no fixtures installed and the Sheetrock not fully installed. The siding had to be redone. Ultimately the homeowner had to pay another contractor $43,300 to correct and complete the work – and the kitchen renovation was never even started!

Joseph Elmendorf, 44, doing business as Affordable General Contractors, 680 Wall St., Hempstead, contracted with a West Hempstead homeowner in July 2002 to remove an existing roof and replace it with a new roof. He was paid $4,100 cash toward the total cost of $4,600. After tearing off the roof, Elmendorf left it uncovered, resulting in water pouring into the house from two severe storms. This caused water stains inside the house, and damage to a window frame, ceiling and electricity. When the job was finally completed, the edges of the roof were very uneven, and the overall workmanship was poor. The homeowner called in another contractor, who determined that the job was substandard and would have to be re-done – at an additional cost of $5,500.

Christopher Perrier, 34, doing business as TKP Carpentry, 24 Market St., Centereach. In July 2002, Perrier contracted with a Port Washington homeowner for a complete renovation of the home's first and second floors, and an addition to the second floor. The original cost was $345,000, but upgrades added between $140,000 and $165,000 to the total. The homeowner paid Perrier a total of $370,000. The job proceeded slowly, with long periods when no work was done. Ultimately the work stopped altogether, with the job less than half done, and much of it substandard: plumbing problems, flooring not level, walls having to be ripped out, and insulation not put in correctly. The homeowner had to pay $470,000 to other contractors to correct and complete the work.

Mustafa Yelek, 39, doing business as Coast to Coast Masonry, 6 Summerset St., Huntington Station. In October 2002 Yelek contracted with a Laurel Hollow homeowner for masonry and landscaping, including a heated pool, patio, driveway and walkway, at a total cost of $192,000. He was paid $180,000. Much of the work was not done, the basement was damaged causing leakage, and, although the homeowner gave Yelek $40,000 to pay the sub-contractor for the pool, he gave only $15,000 to the pool company, forcing the homeowner to pay the other $25,000.

Alejandro Ojeda, 54, doing business as United Services, 1169 Dutch Broadway, Valley Stream. In January 2003, Ojeda contracted to do extensive work on an East Meadow home, including a basement renovation with an office suite and half bath, a full renovation of an upstairs bathroom, and a reconfiguration of two bedrooms. He was paid $28,000 cash toward the total cost of $33,000. The basement and bath were demolished but very little work was completed. The roof was removed without the homeowner's permission and left without a tarpaulin, causing a major flood when it rained. After weeks with no work being done, the homeowner terminated the contract. The homeowner subsequently had to pay another contractor $4,200 to replace a perfectly good roof, and $28,000 to have the rest of the work corrected and completed.

Edwin Seda, 48, doing business as Dynamic Contracting, 529 Imperial Way, Bayport. In January 2002 Seda contracted to put a new roof on a Hempstead home, for which he was paid the total cost of $7,500. About three months after the job was completed, the roof began to leak, and the homeowner has been told by other contractors that the entire roof will have to be replaced.

Jonathan Boock, 40, doing business as All American Glass, 1148 Hastings Parkway, Baldwin Harbor. In August 2002 Boock contracted to put a custom made glass shower door in a Roslyn Harbor home, accepting a $1,500 deposit toward the total cost of $3,038. It was never installed, and although the homeowner won a default judgment in Small Claims Court, it has never been paid.

Douglas Pavone, 39, doing business as Long Island Paving, 107-10 Shore Front Parkway, Rockaway Park. In October 2002 Pavone contracted to repair and sealcoat a driveway at a Glen Head home. He was paid $900 of the total cost of $2,700, but never returned to do the work.

Scott Ohanian, 23, doing business as S & J Home Improvements, 820 Merrick Avenue, East Meadow. In November 2002, Ohanian was paid $3,500 cash toward the total cost of $4,000 for a bathroom renovation in an East Meadow home. The work dragged on for several weeks before it ceased entirely. What was done was shoddy, with fixtures not installed, tiling not installed correctly, and pipes installed incorrectly, causing leaking through the ceiling into the basement. The homeowner received a default judgment of $3,000 in Small Claims Court, but has not been paid.

Rocco Carbone, 49, doing business as Carbone Enterprises, 820 Adele Street, Franklin Square. In September 2002 Carbone contracted with a Valley Stream homeowner to install a second story deck, remove a window and replace it with a door, and relocate a radiator. He was paid $1,800 toward the total cost of $3,300. He did a minimal amount of work, requested an additional $1,000 for supplies, received $500 from the homeowner, but never returned to do any more work. The homeowner received a judgment of $1,848.90 in Small Claims Court, but has been unable to collect.

Eric Thurmond, 51, doing business as A to Z Contracting, 2 Colonial Road, West Hempstead. In June 2002 Thurmond was paid $2,000 toward the total cost of $4,000 for a new concrete driveway, walkway and sidewalk on a Freeport home. However, after digging up the existing driveway, he never returned to complete the work. He promised to refund the homeowner's deposit, but never did so. The homeowner had to pay another contractor $7,000 to do the job.

Bruce Hansen, 54, doing business as D & B Floor Sanding, 618 Salisbury Park Drive, Westbury. In November 2002 Hansen contracted to do sanding and apply polyurethane to the living room, hall, and three bedrooms of a Farmingdale home. He was paid the total cost, $1,200, in cash. However, the work was very shoddy, with polyurethane splattered about the rooms, heating clips broken, and some spots missed altogether. The homeowner had to pay another contractor $900 to redo the floors, and also had to repaint the walls that had been discolored by polyurethane.

Peter Pagoulatos, 41, doing business as Pemo Remodeling, 2633 Riverside Dr., Wantagh. In August 2002 Pagoulatos was paid $500 to repair Sheetrock in a closet and a leak in the bathroom. After the work was done the bathtub leaked worse than ever, with water pouring through the ceiling and into a closet below. Pagoulatos returned to do a repair, but that did not correct the problem.

Operating a Home Improvement Business Without a License is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.