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June 27, 2013

MADIGAN SUES CHICAGO HOME REPAIR SERVICE FOR DEFRAUDING SENIORS, MAYWOOD CHURCH

Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan today filed a lawsuit against a Chicago-based home repair company for cheating Chicago area residents, including a senior suffering from Alzheimer’s and a Maywood church out of more than $58,000.

Madigan’s lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges Rafael Martinez, who operates Chicago-based Abiel Construction Company, Inc., solicited home repair services door-to-door and took homeowners’ down payments but then either failed to complete the work or performed the work in a substandard manner. Five Cook County residents filed complaints with Madigan’s office, reporting losses totaling more than $58,000 for incomplete or shoddy repairs.

Among the most egregious complaints noted in the state’s lawsuit, a Chicago family, including a senior suffering from Alzheimer’s, approached Madigan’s office after Abiel workers broke a gas line while fixing a kitchen water pipe during a remodeling project. Martinez allegedly failed to return to the home for a week and later denied the gas line had been damaged, even after the gas company had inspected the line and confirmed a serious gas leak. After making approximately $20,000 in upfront payments to Martinez, the family later paid an additional $5,000 to a different contractor to complete the repairs on the home.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit also cited a complaint from the St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, located in Maywood, Ill., which enlisted Martinez to renovate the church’s exterior and repair its roof. Martinez demanded a $3,000 down payment for the repair work but then failed to complete the project, eventually forcing the church to enlist a new contractor to fix damage caused by Martinez’s crew and to complete the project for an additional $7,430.

“The complaints my office has received about this home repair operator are outrageous,” Madigan said. “The company’s owner clearly took advantage of his targets, demanding upfront payments only to do little work, much of which required the homeowners then to pay legitimate contractors to repair.”

Madigan’s lawsuit asks the court to permanently ban the defendants from working in the home repair business in Illinois, cancel any pending contracts with homeowners and obtain restitution for affected consumers. The lawsuit also seeks to impose civil penalties on the defendants based on violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Businesses Practices Act.

In filing the action today, Madigan also offered the following tips to help protect families and businesses from being targeted by dishonest contractors:

  • Be wary of contractors who go door to door to offer repair services. Ask for recommendations from people you know and trust and, whenever possible, use established local contractors.
  • Insurance adjusters must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Insurance, and roofers must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Ask to see required state or local permits or licenses.
  • Call the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Hotline (1-800-386-5438 for Chicago area residents) to determine if consumer complaints have been filed against a particular business.
  • Even if there is a need to act quickly, shop around for the best deal. Get written estimates from multiple contractors, and don’t be rushed into a deal.
  • Get all the terms of a contract in writing, and obtain a copy of the signed contract.
  • Never make full payment until all the work has been completed to your satisfaction, and never pay in cash.

Madigan also reminded consumers that the Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act requires contractors to furnish customers with written contracts for any repair or remodeling work costing more than $1,000. A contract must be signed by both the customer and the contractor. The law also requires contractors to carry at least minimum amounts of insurance for property damage, bodily injury and improper home repair. Contractors also must provide consumers with an informational pamphlet entitled “Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights.”

Madigan urged homeowners to contact her Consumer Fraud Hotline at 1-800-386-5438 to report being victimized by a home repair scheme or for more information about finding a reputable contractor.

Assistant Attorney General Samuel Levine is handling the case for Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau.

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