Contractors who fleeced homeowners out of thousands of dollars, not completing work, doing substandard construction or in some cases, never starting the jobs.
Travel gurus who swindled consumers, stealing their money instead of delivering promised discount trips to far-away lands.
The founder of an opioid company who allegedly paid kickbacks and bribes to doctors to boost sales of its drugs.
New Jersey is owed nearly $104 million in unpaid fines, restitution and fees from successful prosecutions of consumer fraud cases and settlements by the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Over nearly 10 years, from 2012 through the end of July 2021, Consumer Affairs won or was awarded more than $260 million across more than 2,300 cases.
The defendants paid more than $156 million on the debts, leaving nearly $104 million, or some 40%, uncollected.
The 10 biggest debtors collectively owe nearly three-quarters of that amount, or more than $75.7 million.
Of the top 10, eight are home improvement contractors.
NJ Advance Media requested Consumer Affairs supply the records so we could see how much the state has been unable to collect on court orders and settlement agreements.
We reached out for comment to everyone on this list, but received no responses. In some cases, the numbers for companies and individuals were out of service.
Here’s who owes the most money, and how much, to the taxpayers of New Jersey.
No. 10: Daruwe Corp./ Majestic Home Remodeling
The Marlton-based home improvement company and its owner were sued by the state in 2016, accused of misleading customers, taking money without beginning or completing work, performing substandard work or not providing its promised “lifetime guarantee.”
A six-count indictment said Daruwe Corp. — doing business as Majestic Home Remodeling — and its owner Wisam Emachah violated the Consumer Fraud Act, the Contractors’ Registration Act and other consumer protection laws.
The case resulted in a default judgment in which they were ordered to pay more than $250,000 in restitution to customers and $3 million in penalties.
The money remains unpaid.
No. 9: Coastal Restoration and Construction
In 2017, the state alleged Coastal Restoration and Construction, and its owners Adam Nevius and Kimberly Atkinson, took advantage of seven consumers after Superstorm Sandy, using “deceptive practices” to abscond with nearly $350,000 in federal relief funds.
The company was supposed to repair and elevate storm-damaged homes, but in some cases never started work or abandoned jobs that had already begun, the state said, accusing the company of violating the Consumer Fraud Act, the Contractors’ Registration Act and other state laws.
The state won a $3,590,381 default judgment in February 2020. To date, the company hasn’t paid a dime.
The pair indicted in March 2021 for “Failure to Make Required Disposition,” the alleged theft of the funds they were paid to make the home repairs. The case is ongoing.
No. 8: Insys Therapeutics
Owes: $4 million
The state accused Insys Therapeutics, Inc. and its founder, John N. Kapoor, of paying illegal kickbacks and bribes to doctors in an attempt to increase sales of Subsys, its opioid drug.
Proceeds from the $5 million settlement, of which $1 million has been collected, are supposed to support the state’s response to the opioid epidemic, the state said.
Kapoor was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison and ordered to pay a fine after a case in federal court in Boston. He is supposed to pay the remaining money from the New Jersey case after he satisfies the federal debt.
The January 2021 settlement with New Jersey was the first settlement of the state’s civil lawsuits against those accused of fraudulently marketing opioid drugs, the state said.
No. 7: Lawson Renovation/ J&N Construction
Jamie Lawson, the owner of Lawson Renovation and J&N Construction, took $1.86 million from 41 people whose homes were damaged by Superstorm Sandy, the state said. In some cases, he did substandard work and in others, he never started the jobs, the state said.
He was indicted in 2016, then fled to South Carolina and was brought back to New Jersey in 2017. The next year, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Lawson remains in prison and hasn’t paid any of the more than $6 million judgment against him and his companies.
No. 6: A. Pizza Contracting/ AP Building & Construction
The state received a $6.3 million default judgment against Anthony Angelo Pizza of Rutherford and two home improvement companies he operated — A. Pizza Contracting and AP Building & Construction — in 2015.
The state accused Pizza and the companies of 571 violations of the state’s consumer protection laws and regulations.
None of the money has been paid.
No. 5: Rayne Construction Management Services/ Colmyer and Sons Construction
Rayne Construction Management Services and Colmyer and Sons Construction, and owners Jeffrey Colmyer and Tiffany Ciminio, both of Little Egg Harbor, were among the many accused of scamming consumers after Superstorm Sandy.
The state said 26 homeowners lost $923,742 in federal relief funds when the companies didn’t repair or rebuild their Sandy-damaged homes. In all, the state alleged 755 violations of the state’s consumer protection laws.
The judgment remains unpaid.
No. 4: A-1 American Construction/ A-1 American Chimney
The state received a $7.7 million judgment in 2012 against a group of home improvement companies owned by John Kot.
Consumer Affairs alleged the companies, which operated out of Garwood, Fair Lawn, Maywood and Hackensack, performed substandard work, refused to honor warranties, refused to return consumer deposits for work that was never performed, and more.
The state won more than $7.5 million after alleging the companies violated consumer protection laws 1,542 times, and Kot was barred from doing business in New Jersey.
None of the money has been paid.
No. 3: Travel Deals/ VIP Executives/ Reservations
Daryl Turner, his wife Robyn Bernstein and their companies were accused of theft by deception after a series of stories by the Bamboozled column. The state alleged they and their travel companies took thousands of dollars from hundreds of consumers in exchange for discounted vacation packages.
After initially agreeing to a $3 million settlement, the state said, Turner and Bernstein reopened their companies under new names — a dozen in all — and continued to scam customers.
In the end, Turner was sentenced to seven years in prison and Bernstein got five years of probation, and they were ordered to pay nearly $11 million in penalties and restitution to hundreds of customers.
The state seized assets, including the couple’s Marlton home, a Porsche, a Bentley, a Ferrari, a Range Rover and a speedboat. The items sold for $770,000 at auction, and the funds were used for restitution — paying only pennies on the dollar — to the couple’s victims.
Because those funds were part of the criminal case, they don’t show as part of Consumer Affairs’ records.
After serving less than three years of his sentence, Turner was paroled in October 2016, and the debt is still outstanding.
No. 2: C.L.J. Home Improvements/ Basements 4 Less/ NJ Basement Contractors/ Choice Home Improvements
The state accused Charles Johnston, Jr. of Robbinsville, and his companies, which advertised services including remodeling basements, painting, electrical and masonry work, of shoddy work, damaging customer homes and leaving jobs unfinished.
In 2016, they were ordered to pay nearly $450,000 in restitution and more than $10.5 million in penalties.
Johnson was also barred from the home improvement business in New Jersey.
The state hasn’t collected any of those funds.
No 1: All Care Chimney Corp.
The largest unpaid settlement owed to Consumer Affairs in the past 10 years is against Michael Lyon and his company, All Care Chimney, of Bethpage and Levittown, N.Y. Lyon paid $5,050 of the more than $15.5 million he was ordered to pay in 2012 for more than 450 violations of the Consumer Fraud Act, with 410 of the violations against senior citizens or the disabled, the state said.
Among the victims were an 89-year-old man with dementia who paid $4,300 for a chimney liner and an 84-year-old woman who hired the company to repair a dryer vent but instead received a $1,300 bill for other repairs she never authorized, the state said.
Civil penalties made up more than $15 million of the judgment, while restitution was less than $100,000.
It’s the largest uncollected settlement for Consumer Affairs since 2012.
MORE ABOUT THE DATA
To see who still owed the state money, NJ Advance Media requested Consumer Affairs provide a list of cases from 2012 through the end of July 2021, what the defendants were ordered to pay and how much was handed over to the state.
It’s important to note that some cases may be excluded from the list because Consumer Affairs does not have one repository for the information.
The settlement list provided by Consumer Affairs only includes data from the Office of Consumer Protection, the Lemon Law Unit, the Charities Registration Section, Legalized Games of Chance and the Regulated Business Section, which includes travel, health clubs, kosher and halal businesses, employment agencies, public movers, home improvement contractors and a host of other areas.
Settlements from its 49 boards and committees, which are in charge of monitoring professionals such as medical professionals, beauticians and electricians, were not included. Neither were those from the New Jersey Drug Control Unit, the Bureau of Securities and the Office of Weights and Measures.
The total due excludes any penalties or fees that have been waived — something that happens if the accused adheres to certain requirements of a settlement.
The amounts do include penalties, fees, restitution and legal costs.
Some of the of debtors are on payment plans and may not yet be delinquent in their payments, while others have simply not paid.
Consumer Affairs often goes back to court with renewed civil demands. It also seizes assets — if there are any — and places liens on bank accounts. It can also refer a case for criminal prosecution, but that often doesn’t lead to financial collections.
In many cases, the defendants file for bankruptcy and there is no money or property left to seize.
The state will also suspend state-issued licenses or registrations to try to get defendants to pay, and it will work with the Treasury Department to collect tax refunds before they are sent to the debtors, but those strategies don’t always work.
“It’s difficult and sometimes impossible to recover funds from scammers and con artists, but that doesn’t stop us from pursuing these wrongdoers and trying to collect the money they owe,” said Sean Neafsey, acting director of Consumer Affairs.
The data shows that Consumer Affairs was more likely to collect large sums from multi-state settlements, such as those involving pharmaceutical companies or car manufacturers, while home improvement contractors as a group were the least likely to pay.
Here’s a look at the complete database of money owed to Consumer Affairs from 2012 through the end of July 2021.
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NJ Advance Media reporters S.P Sullivan and Nick Devlin contributed to this report.
Karin Price Mueller may be reached at [email protected].