Worst Chicago Contractors of 2012
Thermal Construction | Des Plaines, Ill.
Court documents name member Michael Wellems as one of more than 50 homeowners who’ve lost money to Thermal Construction and owner James Johnsen. Willems says he paid Johnsen $29,000 in 2011 for a siding job on his Lincolnshire, Ill., home, but Johnsen never finished the work after tearing off some siding. “My house was sitting exposed for months,” Wellems says. “He always had an excuse and would do just enough to seem like he’s doing something.”
Wellems filed an F-rated review on Angie’s List and a complaint with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who reached a settlement with Johnsen in November. According to a lawsuit filed by the AG in Cook County Chancery Court in September 2011, Wellems’ case was one of 54 in which Johnsen cheated Cook, DuPage and Lake county homeowners out of $148,000 for repair work he never completed. The suit also says he did work without a state roofing license and used substandard materials. According to the agreement with Madigan, Johnsen admitted to the state’s allegations and promised in writing to cease engaging in illegal work practices, to only work when properly insured and to pay more than $38,000 in restitution to 13 homeowners. The company has an overall F grade on Angie’s List, based on two reviews.
Johnsen says he fell on hard times after his manufacturer of 20 years filed for bankruptcy. “[Thermal Construction] has been closed for close to two years now,” he told Angie’s List Magazine. “I’m no longer in the business anymore. As far as the attorney general goes, we’re finishing up with them. I wanted to take care of all the customers that we could.”
Amazing Exteriors | McHenry, Ill.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called Amazing Exteriors owner Robert Cechini a “storm chaser” when she filed suit against him in Cook County in April, according to court records. Madigan’s suit alleges Amazing Exteriors and Cechini solicited business in Chicago, Streamwood, Ill., and Bolingbrook, Ill., after recent storms, consulted with claims adjusters and thus acted as unlicensed public adjusters, accepted payment — usually in the form of insurance checks — and never completed work, failed to inform customers of the three-day right to cancel contracts, did defective work and refused to honor their advertised warranties. According to the suit, five homeowners lost about $25,000 they paid to Cechini for work.
“They put a lien against my house.”
Robert Borre of Streamwood says he paid Cechini $10,000 in 2011 to repair the siding on his home after a storm. He says that unknown to him, Cechini subcontracted the job to another company, then failed to pay them. “The subcontractors did a fantastic job, but since he never paid them for their work, they put a lien against my house,” he says.
Madigan requested the court permanently ban Cechini and Amazing Exteriors from doing home repair, remodeling or public adjusting services in Illinois, pay a $50,000 civil penalty for every act committed with intent to defraud and declare all contracts with customers null and void, according to court documents.
The suit remains ongoing, with the next hearing date scheduled for Jan. 30, 2013. According to federal court records, Cechini filed bankruptcy in July, claiming nearly $329,000 in liabilities against barely $57,100 in assets. The bankruptcy case remains pending.
The F-rated company landed in the Angie’s List Penalty Box twice in 2011 after the company failed to respond to complaints from two different members, who claimed they paid Cechini money in advance for work he never completed.
Amazing Exteriors’ phone numbers are disconnected and Cechini couldn’t be reached. The company’s attorney, Roderick Mollison, declined to comment.
Blue Rose Restorations | Roselle, Ill.
Two employees of Blue Rose Restorations, one of Chicago’s 2011 Worst Contractors, pleaded guilty to felonies in 2012 in Kane County, Ill., after cameras caught them inflicting damage to homes to drum up work, court records say. Christopher Skedd pleaded guilty to property damage in February; Michael Svetanoff pleaded guilty to property damage in May. In 2011, Heather Stebelton pleaded guilty to insurance fraud. All received probation and restitution orders. Rachele Conant, a lawyer with the county public defender’s office, which represented the three, declined comment.
In April, Madigan filed suit against Blue Rose and president Dominique Villarreal asking the court to forbid Blue Rose from operating in the state and pay civil penalties. The next hearing was scheduled for Jan. 3, 2013.
The C-rated firm landed in the Penalty Box after Mary Wright filed a review complaining they failed to complete a roofing job at her Hoffman Estates, Ill., home. “It’s hard to imagine they just went out of business,” she says. Villarreal and Blue Rose representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.
Aaron’s Plumbing & Heating | Olympia Fields, Ill.
Aaron’s Plumbing & Heating, also known as Aaron’s Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration, agreed to pay $3,200 restitution and refrain from fraudulent activities to settle a civil suit from Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez last May, court records say. The suit alleges the company and owners Samuel Pugh and Gerald Grogan accepted $2,500 from a senior citizen to fix a leak and never started the job. Alvarez also accused the firm of using a license number it didn’t own in ads. Pugh says the work was done by someone who stole his company’s name, and he only settled to resolve the legal issue. “I never knew the lady they scammed,” he says.
Members rated the company a D. Angie's List member Beverly Tillman of Flossmoor, Ill., says she paid the company $11,000 to repair a boiler system. “They tore out my ceiling, promised to repair it and never did,” she says.