September 24, 2008
Attorney General Corbett announces lawsuits against two Pittsburgh area home improvement businesses falsely implying to be government programs
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Tom Corbett announced the filing of civil lawsuits against two Pittsburgh area home improvement businesses and their owners, who are accused of charging consumers across western Pennsylvania more than $440,000 for work that was not performed, was done poorly or was left incomplete, as well as falsely implying that their businesses were affiliated with government programs or funded by government grants or loans.
Corbett said the consumer protection lawsuits were filed against the following individuals and businesses:
"Home improvement fraud, coupled with mortgage and financing fraud, has a devastating impact that reaches far beyond individual consumers, casting a shadow over entire communities," Corbett said. "These 'financial vampires' drained their victims finances and stole the equity from their homes - leaving consumers with empty promises, shattered dreams and increased debt."
William and Karen Livorio / Revitalization & Funding
Corbett said that Revitalization & Funding, and its operators, William and Karen Livorio, are accused of taking at least $286,000 from consumers for home improvement work that was never started. To date the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection has investigated at least 33 transactions involving consumers from Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Clearfield, Lawrence, Mercer and Westmoreland counties.
According to the lawsuit, "Homeowner Guides" were mailed to consumers by the Livorios and their company. The guides included bold statements such as "You may be eligible for home repairs," and "Applications are being accepted." The mailings spelled out "application conditions," and "approved work," and included official-looking seals and crests for the Pittsburgh "Administrative Offices" and "Application Department" for Revitalization & Funding.
In reality, the Livorios and their company have no affiliation with any government agency or program and provide no special financing to consumers. Additionally, they are not licensed as mortgage brokers and are not authorized to accept financing applications from consumers.
Corbett said the consumer protection lawsuit against William and Karen Livorio and Revitalization & Funding was filed on Tuesday, September 23nd, in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
Corbett said that the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection immediately requested, and has been granted, a special injunction prohibiting the Livorios and their company from advertising or selling any home improvement or financing services in Pennsylvania. The court has also ordered a freeze on all assets held by the Livorios and their company.
The special injunction remains in place until a hearing can be held to determine if those restrictions should be extended. That hearing is scheduled for Monday, September 29th, at 1:30 p.m., before Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Robert P. Horgos.
Wayne P. Scholar / Western Pennsylvania Housing Alliance
Corbett said that Scholar, operating as Western Pennsylvania Housing Alliance (WPHA), is accused of taking at least $156,000 from consumers from Beaver and Butler counties for home improvement work that was not started or was performed in an unprofessional manner.
Corbett said that Scholar is also accused of falsely representing that the WHPA was a government sponsored or government related business that was able to provide "special funding" to consumers. Scholar allegedly represented that his business was an agent for, or was hired by, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the "State Housing Department." Advertisements and other documents sent to consumers allegedly included the Pennsylvania "Keystone" symbol and identified Scholar as the "District Supervisor" for the Housing Alliance - even though he was the sole owner/operator of the business, which did not have districts or supervisors.
Additionally, Scholar is accused of falsely representing that WPHA was part of a government affiliated program designed to assist unemployed construction workers by providing them with work during off-peak construction periods.
According to the lawsuit, Scholar and his business are not affiliated with any sort of government program and are not in a position to offer special funding for home improvement projects.
Corbett said that Scholar is also accused of operating as a mortgage broker without the required state license, failing to include the state-required three day right to cancel in his consumer contracts and failing to register a fictitious business name with the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Corbett said the consumer protection lawsuit against Wayne P. Scholar and the Western Pennsylvania Housing Alliance was filed on Tuesday, September 23nd, in the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas.
Corbett encouraged consumers to contact the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection if they paid any of these defendants for home improvement or home repair services that were not started or were left incomplete. Consumers can call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-441-2555 or file an online complaint.
Corbett said that both lawsuits are seeking restitution for consumers who suffered losses as the result of these unfair business practices, along with civil penalties and court costs. The lawsuits also ask the court to permanently prohibit the defendants from operating any sort of home improvement, mortgage or financing service in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Corbett also urged consumers to carefully research home improvement contractors before agreeing to begin a project and to directly contact government agencies in order to verify any claims that a contractor or business is affiliated with any sort of official program.
"In these situations, many consumers believed that they were going to get much-needed repairs to their homes as part of a government grant or financing program," Corbett said. "Instead, victims were convinced to mortgage or refinance their homes and then pay hundreds-of-thousands of dollars for renovations or improvements that were never performed."
Corbett noted that over the past year, the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection has received nearly 2,100 complaints about home improvement projects, ranging from general repairs and remodeling to roofing and paving, and other specialized tasks.
Corbett urged consumers to take steps to protect themselves from unscrupulous contractors, including:
Additionally, Corbett said that consumers should always get a written contract which includes all of the major details for the project:
Corbett urged consumers with questions or problems related to home improvement scams or financing fraud to contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-441-2555 or file an online consumer complaint.