|NEWARK – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today announced a $7.7 million judgment against John Kot, of Garwood, and his multiple home improvement companies – including Roofing Police, Inc., which has used distinctive vehicles painted to resemble police squad cars. Under the terms of the judgment, Kot and the companies are permanently barred from performing home improvement work, and Kot is permanently barred from managing or owning any business in New Jersey.
“These defendants allegedly left consumers with shoddy work, broken promises, and warranties that were ignored – often while using business names or language on their websites that implied they had some connection to government or police work,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. “We have held them accountable by obtaining a judgment that provides for consumer restitution and civil penalties, and which prohibits them from performing home improvement work, or even owning or managing any business in New Jersey.”
Under the Final Judgment by Default and Order, entered by Bergen County Superior Court Judge Robert P. Contillo, defendant Kot, 41, and the various home improvement companies he operated, were found to have engaged in conduct which comprises 1,542 violations of the State Consumer Fraud Act, Contractors' Registration Act, Contractor Registration Regulations, Home Improvement Regulations, and Advertising Regulations.
Kot and his companies are collectively required to pay a total of $7.7 million – including $150,000 in consumer restitution, $7.5 million in civil penalties, $38,000 for the State’s attorney’s fees, and $30,000 for the State’s investigative costs. Kot and his companies are permanently enjoined from performing home improvements in the State. Kot also is permanently enjoined from managing or owning any business in the State; and the corporate charters of the defendant corporations and companies are annulled.
The Final Judgment by Default and Order is against all defendants in the State’s complaint, except for Gabriel R. DaSilva, Jr., who settled with the State via a Final Consent Judgment. A $30,000 civil penalty is assessed against DaSilva but will remain suspended so long as he complies with the terms of the settlement as well as all applicable laws. DaSilva is not barred from performing home improvement work, so long as he first obtains State registration as a home improvement contractor.
“Our investigation and the Court’s findings make it abundantly clear that consumers must be cautious when hiring a home improvement contractor,” Acting Director Eric T. Kanefsky said. “Through this default judgment, we have ensured that one of the worst can no longer defraud New Jersey’s consumers.”
The State’s complaint, filed on behalf of the Division of Consumer Affairs by the Division of Law, alleged that the defendants performed substandard work; refused to repair their substandard work despite promises and/or warranties; refused to return consumer deposits for work that was never performed; failed to honor guarantees or warranties provided in their contracts; and started work without the necessary state or local permits. The companies also allegedly advertised through names and statements that wrongfully implied they were affiliated with government or were quasi-police agencies or police-affiliated businesses.
The State alleged that the defendants perpetuated their deceptive business practices through the interchangeable use of multiple business entities, names, addresses and phone numbers. Defendants advertised or contracted with consumers using the following corporations, limited liability companies, trade names and/or unregistered business names: A-1 American Construction, Inc.; A 1 American Chimney Limited Liability Company; Brick City Chimney Service, L.L.C.; Brick City Chimney Service and Cleaning, Inc.; Roofing Police, Inc.; Roofing Squad; Chimney Squad; Brick City; Brick City Chimney & Roofing Services; A-1 American Masonry; A-1 American Masonry Services; A-1 American Chimney Service; A-1 American Contracting; A-1 American Roofing; A-1 American Gutters; A-1 American Siding; A-1 Affordable Construction; A Above American; A Above Brick City; and Diamond Roofing. Defendants used common addresses in Fair Lawn, Hackensack, Maywood and Garwood. The State’s Complaint further alleged that the defendants misrepresented their business locations and, in Kot’s case, used as assumed name as an alias in the course of conducting business. The Division of Consumer Affairs received complaints about the defendants from a total of 81 consumers.
Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Kant, in the Division of Law's Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, represented the State in this action.
Advice for New Jersey Consumers, When Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor:
Before hiring a home improvement contractor, New Jersey consumers are urged to:
- Obtain the contractor's State registration number, which always begins "13VH."
- Contact the Division of Consumer Affairs to learn whether the contractor's registration is still valid. Call the Division’s License Verification Line at 973-273-8090, or check the Division's database of all 43,000 registered home improvement contractors.
- Demand a copy of the contractor's commercial general liability insurance policy.
- Contact the insurer to learn whether the policy is still valid.
- Run Internet searches to see if there are online complaints against the contractor.
Additional advice can be found in the Consumer Brief, "Hiring Home Improvement Contractors, (Spanish).
Advice for Home Improvement Contractors:
To advertise and perform home improvement work legally in New Jersey, contractors must register with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Registration materials are available here.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
Follow the Division of Consumer Affairs on Facebook, and check our online calendar of upcoming Consumer Outreach events.