Underwood: Syracuse home improvement contractor found guilty of operating business in violation of prior court orders 

NYS Attorney General Barbara Underwood

Underwood: Syracuse home improvement contractor found guilty of operating business in violation of prior court orders 

Jason Briere held in civil and criminal contempt of court for second time this year; must pay more than $66,000 in restitution still owed to consumers he duped – Underwood urges victims to contact her office and offers tips to protect homeowners from fraud

Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood announced that Jason M. Briere, a home improvement contractor, was found in violation of a court order that legally prohibited him from owning and operating a home improvement contracting business without posting a $25,000 performance bond. This is the second time Briere has been held in contempt for violating the court’s orders. Pursuant to a consent order, Briere must make weekly payments to the Attorney General’s office until he pays off the $66,158 that is still owed to consumers. If he fails to make those payments, he will serve time in jail as ordered by the court.

“This contempt order sends a clear message to home improvement contractors that try to dupe New Yorkers out of their hard-earned money,” said Underwood. “My office will do everything in our power to hold scammers to account and protect consumers. I urge any New Yorker who believes they’ve been defrauded to contact my office.”

Briere was first found guilty of civil and criminal contempt in January 2018 for violating a court order issued in 2014. At that time, the court held sentencing in abeyance, on the condition that Briere pay an additional $40,420 in restitution for aggrieved consumers, as well as comply with the terms of the original order. However, Briere continued to operate as a home improvement contractor and engage in deceptive practices.

Consumers reported that Briere failed to perform or complete work after receiving payment, provide refunds for incomplete or defective work, respond to consumer complaints, provide consumers with a written home improvement contract that complied with state law, deposit consumer down payments in escrow accounts, and give consumers notice of their three-day right to cancel. One consumer also reported that Briere used a fake name (“John Moore”) when he solicited their home improvement job through the online service Thumbtack.

On Sept. 11, 2018, the court held Briere in contempt for the second time.

Pursuant to the court-ordered settlement, Jason Briere must pay $31,050 to four consumers who suffered damage from his most recent fraudulent conduct, as well as a $2,000 fine for criminal contempt. Briere must also reimburse the thirteen consumers identified in the 2014 consent order and the four consumers identified in the January 2018 consent order. Having previously paid some restitution, Briere must make weekly restitution payments to the Attorney General’s office until the $66,158.11 still owed is fully paid. Failure to do so will result in a weekend sentence to jail. The next time Briere misses a payment, the court has ordered a sentencing of six months’ incarceration for civil contempt and a 30-day term of incarceration for criminal contempt.

The Attorney General urges any consumer who may have been defrauded by Jason Briere to promptly contact her office. In order to be eligible for restitution, consumers must submit their complaints by November 10, 2018. Consumers can call 315-448-4848 and request that a complaint form be mailed or can file their complaints online.

When planning to use a home improvement contractor, consumers should consider the following tips:

  • Determine exactly what you want done, then look for a qualified contractor.
  • Shop around; get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided.
  • Never agree to have work done on the spot, especially when potential contractors are marketing door-to-door.
  • Ask for references: check with the Better Business Bureau, banks, suppliers, and neighbors.
  • Always contact any references provided to you.
  • Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed.
  • Do not pay unreasonable advance sums; negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job
  • Never pay the full price up front.
  • Remember that you have three days to cancel after signing a home improvement contract, but all cancellations must be in writing.

Additional information on how to avoid home improvement scams can be found on the Attorney General’s Website.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Judith C. Malkin, with the assistance of Investigator Andrea Buttenschon and Consumer Frauds Representative Jean Ryan. The Syracuse office is led by Assistant Attorney General in Charge Ed Thompson. The Syracuse Regional Office is part of the Division of Regional Offices, which is led by Acting Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Gary Brown.

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