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updated: 9/20/2012 5:34 PM

Attorney general sues contractors for fraud

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Home repair and construction companies located in Addison, Barrington and Lake in the Hills are among five businesses named in lawsuits filed Thursday by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan claiming the owners bilked homeowners out of more than $365,000.

One lawsuit alleges that John Curtis and his Lake in the Hills company National Restoration of Illinois operated as an unlicensed insurance adjuster when negotiating repairs of weather-related damages with the homeowner's insurance company. The complaint alleges National Restoration of Illinois never completed the work and defrauded the homeowners of their insurance checks.

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A second lawsuit lists similar complaints against Lateef Farooqui and his Barrington company, North Point Exteriors Inc. In a prepared statement, Madigan claims North Point Exteriors offered unlicensed insurance adjustment services and operated as "'storm chasers,' soliciting vulnerable consumers door to door" for repairs that were never completed.

A third lawsuit charges Addison's Tropical Home Improvement, Inc. and president Herberth Pulgarin with "aggressively pursuing consumers for payment" even after performing no work and for offering unlicensed public adjusting services.

The attorney general also filed suit against Chicago-based Gulli Construction and owner Dominic Gulli, who the complaint alleges contracted with homeowners for repair work and then disappeared; and against the Urbana company Randy Oaks & Sons, Asphalt Paving and Seal Coating, owned by Randy Oaks Sr. and Randy Oaks Jr. The attorney general alleges the company solicited seniors and contracted with them, then demanded additional payments under threat of physical and verbal intimidation.

In each case, the companies required large, upfront payments to complete work they solicited from homeowners, then failed to complete the repairs for which they were under contract, according to the complaint.

Madigan is asking the court to ban the defendants permanently from working in home repair in Illinois and order restitution for the homeowners.

Madigan urged homeowners to ask questions before signing any agreements and to exercise caution when hiring contractors.

"Any time a repair company solicits door to door or uses high-pressure tactics to sign up customers, it's a signal that something is wrong," Madigan said in a prepared statement.

To avoid being cheated, she suggests homeowners: obtain written estimates from multiple contractors and get in writing the terms of the contract; seek referrals from people they trust; ask to see licenses and permits; never pay in full until the work is completed and never pay cash. Madigan reminds consumers that for work costing more than $1,000, Illinois law requires contractors to furnish clients with written contracts. Additionally, contractors must carry insurance for property damage, injure and improper repair.

To determine if a home repair company has received complaints or to report a home repair scam, consumers should contact the attorney general's Consumer Fraud Hotline at (800) 386-5438.

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