September 08, 2017 01:00 AM
A News10NBC viewer has waged a two-year battle to get back his money. He hired a contractor in June of 2015 to install a patio. But he says that patio is pitiful. After a lengthy court fight, the contractor agreed to pay back most of his money, but he never did. So that consumer Dialed Deanna.
When Scott Szeles hired a contractor to install a stamped concrete patio, he was clear about what he wanted. He already had a stamped concrete walkway in front of his house.
"I wanted the color to be exactly the same. I wanted the texture to be exactly the same. That’s what we asked for," said Szeles pointing to his walkway that has the variant color patterns and texture of stone.
Instead, his contractor, Louis Piccirillo, installed this patio with concrete painted far darker and large areas with no stamped texture.
"I'm embarrassed to have people over here because of the way it looks," said Szeles.
While stamped concrete is supposed to be textured creating the look of stone or brick, much of his patio is smooth.
"Visually for me you can see right here, there's no impression. There's no texture, no stamp at all, said Szeles, pointing to his patio. But workers did leave impressions of a different kind. Szeles pointed to an area that looks like a shoe print left apparently by workers in the now-hardened cement.
But it's not just the look of the patio that concerns him.“This point here is about an inch high compared to here which makes this a severe slip hazard," he said pointing to a slope extending from the step.
Piccirillo charged him $4,200. Szeles paid $2,000 up front, but refused to pay him the remaining $2,200 until Piccirillo fixed the patio. Piccirillo refused and demanded payment.
The two battled it out in court and eventually reached a settlement. Piccirillo agreed to refund most of the payment - $1,250. That was in February of 2016. When Piccirillo failed to pay, the judge in the case, Rochester City Court Judge Ellen Yacknin, handed down a judgment against Piccirillo.
News10NBC Consumer Investigator Deanna Dewberry called Piccirillo. He refused to speak on-camera, but insisted by phone that he does good work. When asked why he hadn’t paid the judgment, he said he'd just started the business at the time of the judgment. But we found a total of 18 small claims cases filed against Piccirillo in Monroe County alone. Public records don't indicate which have been paid.
He said he knew nothing about them, but when Dewberry named them, he said he'd paid most of them.
“One of the things that people need to do is if they believe they're the victims of fraud, they have to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office," said Ben Bruce, an Assistant Attorney General with the Rochester Regional Office.
That's the one thing Bruce says consumers often fail to do. He says his office has only gotten one complaint about Piccirillo.
"There's been sometimes when we've started action based on a single complaint if it's something that's systemic," said Bruce. In order for the Attorney General’s office to take civil action against a business, there must be a pattern of the business breaking the law. That's a lengthy legal process. But if the consumer wants quick restitution the A.G. can intervene.
"We'll seek that through the mediation process because that can happen very quickly for a person," said Bruce. He points out it's important for consumers to take notes throughout the entire project to help prove your case if problems occur.
“Documentation is really important. We have some consumers who photograph a project. They photograph before during and after a project," said Bruce.
As for Szeles, he's back where he began. When he called other contractors to fix the patio, they told him it couldn’t be repaired.
"They said the only way to fix it would be to remove it and start over," said Szeles.
After News10NBC called Piccirillo, he met with Szeles and paid him the $1,250. This is the third investigation we've done of Piccirillo's business. We have asked him several times for an on-camera interview. Each time, he has declined.
Before you hire a contractor, here's Deanna's Do List:
1. Get at least three bids.
2. Do a background check, like checking the Better Business Bureau.
3. Ask for proof of insurance.
4. Get a written contract. The Better Contractors Bureau has provided an example of what it should look like.
5. Never pay full price up front. The BBB suggests pay a third up front, a third in the middle, and a third at completion.
Updated: September 08, 2017 01:00 AM
Created: September 07, 2017 07:40 PM
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