- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey consumer affairs officials say a New York-based contractor who cheated elderly customers has been ordered to pay $1.1 million in penalties and restitution.

A judge also permanently barred Leroy Brown from advertising or working in New Jersey in the ruling announced Wednesday. He also can’t own or manage a business in the state.

Brown was an unregistered contractor who did business as B&K; Masonry & Chimney, according to state officials. They say he maintained a New Jersey business address in Teaneck and New York addresses in Babylon, New York City and West Babylon.

A complaint filed last December by the state Attorney General’s Office claimed Brown had misrepresented himself as a registered contractor. It also claimed he used deceptive sales tactics to induce mostly elderly consumers into paying for expensive chimney repairs that were never completed. The judge found that Brown committed 410 violations of the state’s consumer protection laws and regulations.

Brown did not respond to the state’s complaint. His firm’s phone numbers rang busy on Wednesday.

Brown made misrepresentations by phone and on the company’s website by claiming he was licensed and registered and that “all work is guaranteed,” officials said. He also made unsolicited calls to the elderly, offering chimney and sweeping services at a discount.

Brown also used deceptive sales practices such as having a company representative misrepresent himself as a government inspector, officials said. The representative allegedly told a customer she would no longer be allowed to use her furnace if she didn’t have a chimney liner replaced and, if she did use her furnace, she could be fined.

Brown also got payment for home improvement work that he never started or didn’t complete and performed home improvements in a substandard and, at times, dangerous manner, officials said. At least one family allegedly had to leave their home due to high levels of carbon monoxide inside the residence following chimney liner work performed by Brown, according to the state attorney general’s office.

The judge ordered Brown to pay the state $1,123,303 within 10 days. That amount includes $1,025,000 in civil penalties, $81,646 in legal fees and investigative costs, and $16,657 in restitution to 11 consumers.

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