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Long Branch Landscaper Charged with Sandy Gouging

Operators of a Long Branch landscaping company face post-Sandy gouging charges filed by the office of acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman.

Information released today accuses Stephen’s Landscaping, trading as Stephen’s Garden Center, with selling generators at grossly inflated prices, some under recall for potential fire hazards, and meting out 44 five-gallon cans of gasoline at $50 dollars a pop, with no license to do so.

Details from Hoffman’s office indicate that so far, Stephen’s has not responded to a subpoena for documents related to purchase of the generators from suppliers.

According to investigators, Stephen’s raised generator prices exorbitantly before the Superstorm arrived, selling 133 when Governor Christie declared a state of emergency on October 27.

Between October 30 and November 3, Stephen’s customers paid between $800 and $1,550 for Powerhorse generators – a markup of 82 to 155 percent, raking in  $176,950, authorities said.

Stephen’s is also accused of tacking on $100 assembly fees on 77 of the units, which consisted of taking the generators out of their boxes and attaching wheels. Some buyers said they were given no choice, investigators said.

In addition, authorities alleged that until October 26, Stephen’s sold Poulan Pro 6600 generators – which had been recalled by the manufacturer in January 2011 after fuel leaks had been reported.

New Jersey’s Hazardous Products regulations prohibit the sale of recalled items that pose potential safety hazards. The state’s Motor Fuel Tax Act bans unlicensed sale of motor fuels.

New Jersey’s Division of Community Affairs maintains a hotline for complaints or suspicions of consumer fraud: 800-242-5846. Information is also available on the Divison’s web page and its Facebook page.

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