Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly says he has obtained an emergency court order shutting down a Westfield, Massachusetts-based contractor accused of convincing area consumers to sign contracts for major home renovations, collecting more than $200,000 in deposits and then failing to deliver.

Reilly obtained the court order from Hampden Superior Court Judge Peter Velis as part of a lawsuit against Andrew Clough and Reliable Construction, both of Westfield. The lawsuit alleges that Clough has been misleading consumers into paying thousands of dollars in deposits - ranging from $12,000 to $54,000 - for substandard or incomplete work. Homeowners also paid deposits in advance well in excess of the one-third of the total cost of the project permitted by law.

"Today we stopped this contractor from doing business in Massachusetts," Reilly said. "Now we are focused on getting as much money as possible back for these homeowners and keeping this contractor from hurting anyone else."

Reilly's lawsuit alleges that Clough and Reliable Construction violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act and the Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Act by: executing contracts and taking payments for home improvement services and then failing to deliver the services; making false representations about how quickly they could complete their work; pressuring consumers into paying deposits in excess of one-third of the project's cost; refusing to give homeowners refunds even thought they did not finish the promised work; and failing to obtain construction permits.

According to the complaint, Clough repeatedly misled consumers into paying large deposits by promising he could complete major construction projects in a matter of weeks. Several consumers also discovered that Clough had never obtained appropriate municipal permits. To date, 16 consumers have filed complaints against Reliable Construction or Clough alleging that he failed to complete a job or did substandard work.

In one case, a Chicopee homeowner paid Clough $56,874 to build an addition estimated to cost $140,000. In September 2004, Reliable Construction removed part of the homeowner's roof, causing significant water damage to ceilings, furniture and carpeting. Soon after, a lumber company told the consumer it had placed a lien on his home because Clough had not paid a bill for materials.

In 2004, complaints about home improvement ranked second on the year-end list of complaints filed by consumers with the Massachusetts Consumer Complaint Hotline.


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