They came to Monmouth County following Sandy and allegedly submitted estimates to undercover investigators to perform repairs.  Now, eight unregistered home improvement contractors have been criminally charged or civilly cited for allegedly violating the state's Home Improvement Contractors' Registration Act.

A severely-damaged house on Second Street in Highlands, N.J. (New Jersey Department of Attorney General - www.nj.gov/oag)

Four contractors are charged with the fourth degree crime of engaging in home improvement contracting without being registered.  The State Division of Consumer Affairs issued Notices of Violation against four additional unregistered contractors.

"We're putting every schemer and fraudster on notice, do not attempt to enrich yourself by victimizing those who already have suffered from Superstorm Sandy and are attempting to rebuild their lives," said Acting Attorney General John Hoffman.  "Either operate legally or we will hold you accountable."

The home improvement contractors were identified by undercover investigators via internet listings and after checking each for annual registration with the Division of Consumer Affairs, individual appointments were scheduled with suspected unregistered contractors.

A severely-damaged house on Second Street in Highlands, N.J.(New Jersey Department of Attorney General - www.nj.gov/oag)

"These so-called contractors offered wildly varying assessments of the damage to the home and cost estimates for rebuilding.  Consumers depend on the skill and expertise of legitimate contractors and this investigation shows the pitfalls that vulnerable homeowners face when trying to rebuild," said Eric Kanefsky, Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs.  "Earlier this year, we assigned investigators to Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic counties, specifically checking job sites for unregistered home improvement contractors and we're continuing our proactive efforts to protect homeowners."

The unregistered contractors were were criminally charged are as follows:

  • Rev. Victor McGookin III, 53, Seaside Park, N.J.
  • Michael Kaufmann, 48, Kaufmann Drywall By Design, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Jason Storey, 46, Work-A-Holics, LLC, South Orange, N.J.
  • Anthony DiVito, 61, DiVito & Sons, LLC, Fanwood, N.J.

Notices of Violation for unregistered practice of home improvement were issued to the following:

  • Darrell Sorger, 43, Toms River, N.J.
  • Robert Mazzeo, 33, Mazzeo Construction, Keyport, N.J.
  • Derrick Scott, 54, Lloyd Home Improvement, Matawan, N.J.
  • Sebastiao Bonato, 54, Sebastian Restoration and Design (d/b/a/ Step Home Restorations), Long Branch, N.J.

The Notices of Violation carry civil penalties of $2,500.

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting www.njconsumeraffairs.com or by calling 1-800-242-5846 or 973-504-6200.