AG: local contractor took money, never finished work

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – The New York Attorney General’s Office is taking action against contractors who don’t deliver, including the owner of JRJ Contracting in Western New York.

The New York Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit Justin Jerge, owner of JRJ Contracting based in Gasport. Attorneys say that over the last 18 months, Jerge has taken thousands of dollars from his clients, without finishing the home improvements they contracted him to do. In some cases, Jerge never did any work at all.

“We have a number of disturbing cases,” says James Morrissey, Assistant Attorney General. “One case, of parents of an adult disabled child. They were doing home improvements for their home so that they could keep their adult child in the home, rather than putting her in some other environment. We have a member of the armed services who gave Mr. Jerge $6,500 to install a roof.”

But Linda Bakowski’s case may be the most disturbing of all. She paid Jerge a total of over $68,000.

Bakowski hired Jerge in October 2012 to redo her driveway, build a new garage, renovate her kitchen and cellar, and put an addition on her Tonawanda home. A job Jerge said he could do in two to three months dragged on for seven, and Bakowski says the problems only got worse, until she fired him.

“I found out afterwards that, the town inspector said that there were multiple things wrong with the garage. And I didn’t know this until just before I fired him. He gave me excuses after excuses,” Bakowski says. “The garage was bowing to the right. It didn’t have the proper beams across it.”

The living room addition “was leaking profusely from up there, because the roof wasn’t connected properly,” Bakowski says. “I had buckets collecting water, I had to empty every day.”

When Bakowski finally fired Jerge in May 2013, she had to hire another contractor to do the work, right. That cost her another $60,000.

The Attorney General’s Office is seeking a court order barring Jerge from doing any more home improvement work, unless he posts a $200,000 bond, and refunds for customers including Bukowski.

“I just had to move on. I couldn’t do anything. I tried to get the money back, and now the Attorney General is trying to get the money back. But I have grave doubts that I’ll get a penny, truthfully,” says Bakowski. “We were both retired. That was our savings. He took it from us.”

When hiring a home contractor, Morrissey says, “Be very careful. Get a referral from a neighbor or family member of someone that [they] liked. Or, get bids from three different home improvement contractors, and don’t necessarily take the lowest bid… Once you select that contractor, check with the Better Business Bureau. See if there are any complaints there. Check the last two or three jobs that that contractor has done. Actually call the consumer, and see if they’re happy with the work that he’s completed.”

Most importantly, “Get it in writing. What’s the start date? What’s the completion date? What materials will the contractor use? What tasks has the contractor agreed to undertake? And obviously, what’s the cost of that home improvement? Hold back as much money as you can. Don’t pay for 100 percent of the job… [until] the end of the job, when you’re able to visually inspect it and that job is done to your satisfaction,” advises Morrissey.

But Bakowski says she had checked JRJ Contracting out online, before she hired Jerge. The business had an “A” rating with the Better Business Bureau, and Jerge gave her a list of references.

She now has some very simple advice for anyone hiring a home contractor.

“I would never hire somebody again, that wasn’t recommended by friends,” Bakowski says.

If you believe you have been victimized by Jerge, you can contact the Attorney General’s consumer hotline at (800) 771-7755 or the Buffalo Regional Office at 853-8400.

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