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Levittown chimney repair firm faces NJ fraud suit

A chimney

A chimney Credit: U.S. Energy Dept. File

New Jersey's attorney general has filed suit against a Levittown chimney repair company owner, seeking to bar him from doing business in that state.

In the suit, New Jersey accuses All Care Chimney Corp. and the owner, Michael Lyon, of pressuring elderly and mentally disabled homeowners to pay inflated repair costs for work that, in some cases, left the customers at risk of carbon-monoxide poisoning.

All Care Chimney has two addresses registered with New York State agencies, at 40 Pebble Lane, Levittown, and 80 S. Fifth St., Bethpage. Lyon could not be reached for comment Thursday.

His company website referred visitors to the company's Facebook page, which as of Thursday listed his company address as 1299 Corporate Dr., Westbury.

Paula T. Dow, the New Jersey attorney general, said in an eight-count civil complaint, filed in Middlesex County court the first week of October, that Lyon and All Care Chimney violated that state's consumer fraud and contractors registration acts, and its home improvement regulations.

Dow, in a statement, gave several examples of the misdeeds Lyon is accused of, saying he and his company:

•Took advantage of an 89-year-old man suffering from dementia. He let them into his house, and the company then charged him $4,300 for a chimney liner.

•Took advantage of a developmentally disabled 63-year-old man, charging him $4,800 for a liner. Lyon's employees "took it upon themselves to fill out a check from the homeowner's checkbook that they then presented to the disabled man to sign," the New Jersey attorney general said.

•Pressured an 84-year-old homeowner to pay the company $1,300 after she "allowed All Care Chimney's workers into her condominium, believing they were hired by her condominium association."

"We allege not just that these defendants performed substandard, incompetent and dangerous work, but that they pressured consumers who were elderly, disabled, and vulnerable into paying thousands of dollars for so-called ‘repairs' they did not need," Dow said.

"With cold weather season rapidly approaching, it is imperative that we halt such unconscionable activities and protect consumers from the risk of being scammed -- or, worse, the risk of their homes becoming unsafe due to shoddy work."

Dow's office said a Middlesex judge has already granted temporary restraints against Lyon and his company, pending a Nov. 10 hearing, barring him from advertising or offering services in New Jersey. He also must refrain from removing assets from New Jersey or destroying any relevant business records.

Lyon is also required to give New Jersey authorities a list of all his customers since January 2010, to allow inspectors to ensure that his work did not result in exposure to potentially fatal carbon-monoxide leaks.

Lyon, his company and his employees used door-to-door and telephone sales pitches to pressure people into accepting a low-cost chimney cleaning service, costing $39 to $60 -- and then the company falsely claimed the chimneys were in dire need of expensive repairs, New Jersey officials said.

The company used fake evidence of damaged bricks and phony cellphone photos in sales pitches, pressured customers to pay $1,800 to $4,800 for chimney liners, the state said.

All Care Chimney botched some installations, allowing poisonous gas to leak, and improperly connected water heaters and appliances to chimneys, the lawsuit says.

Public records, obtained through Lexis-Nexis, show Lyon's company is the subject of numerous unsatisfied liens and judgments including a $14,500 judgment levied in New Jersey.