CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–June 30, 2011. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Consumer Fraud Unit has filed a lawsuit against a Texas construction company and its agents for bilking thousands of dollars from northwest suburban homeowners whose houses were damaged by hail and heavy winds due to severe storms, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced today.
Alvarez also issued a Consumer Alert today in the wake of recent severe storms that have hit communities across Cook County reminding homeowners to be on guard against so-called “storm-chasers,” or fraudulent or unlicensed contracting companies whose owners and operators target homeowners in communities that have been hard hit by damaging weather.
“Cook County residents who suffer severe storm damage to their homes have every right to expect honest services from home repair contractors in an emergency,” Alvarez said. “The State’s Attorney’s Consumer Fraud Unit will aggressively enforce our consumer protection laws and hold unscrupulous storm-chaser companies who engage in fraud fully accountable.”
Named in the suit is Godfather Construction, originally a Texas-based construction company that incorporated in Illinois in April of 2010 at a time when heavy storms had caused severe hail and wind damage to hundreds of homes in the northwest suburbs. Also named in the suit are the company’s owners and operators Thomas Kamin and Steven Anderson, both of Texas; and Freddie Miles, of Indiana.
According to prosecutors, Kamin, Anderson, and Miles are “Storm Chasers” who travel to communities that have been hard hit by storms in order to target the insurance money received by homeowner’s from severe weather damage. According to the suit, Godfather contracted to make repairs with six homeowners in Niles, Park Ridge, and Des Plaines beginning in April of 2010. All of the homeowners believed they were hiring a reputable and experienced company to complete their repairs but in reality, Godfather Construction would typically import unlicensed laborers from out of state to perform the work, which was often incomplete or shoddy.
Also named in the lawsuit is Peter Svaras, president of Svaras Roofing based in McHenry, Illinois. Svaras entered into a contract with Godfather Construction in April of 2010 whereby he agreed to work for the company and accept profits and register the company as a licensed roofer under his roofing license. According to prosecutors, Svaras failed to register Godfather so the company was never properly licensed in Illinois, despite the false claims that they made to consumers.
In many cases, Godfather also took advantage of subcontractors by failing to pay them for their work. Several crews stopped working when they didn’t receive their payments leaving repairs unfinished. Several threatened to file liens against the homeowners to collect payments for the work they had completed.
In total, the suit alleges that Godfather collected nearly $60,000 in payments from the victims. Some were able to collect some refunds but only after several months and sought help from local authorities.
The suit filed by the State’s Attorney’s Office seeks an injunction to permanently bar Godfather Construction from ever doing business again in Cook County and the State of Illinois. The suit also seeks restitution for victims who have not already obtained it and to prohibit the defendants from engaging in this conduct in the future.