Worst Washington D.C. Contractors of 2011
Custom Creation Landscapes | Manassas, Va.
Owner Richard Ryals returns as a Washington, D.C., Worst Contractor for the second straight year after pleading guilty to three separate charges in 2011.
Early in the year, he pleaded guilty in Prince William and Loudoun counties to two misdemeanor charges related to unlicensed contracting. A Loudoun judge fined him $2,500, which court records indicate he's failed to pay, and a Prince William judge issued a 60-day suspended jail sentence.
In October, Ryals also pleaded guilty to a third charge related to unlicensed contracting in Fairfax County. Since it was his third offense in three years, the charge increased to a felony, according to court officials. He remains free on bond, but his sentencing is set for Jan. 12. He faces up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
He's also scheduled for a Jan. 31 jury trial in a separate matter in Prince William on one of three felony counts of practicing an occupation without a license. His bench trial on the other two counts is set for March 12.
Ryals declined to elaborate on the cases, other than to say "We're just trying to do everything right ... and we're trying to move on. Some people learn after they make mistakes, and I was one of them." He says he's closed Custom Creation and his new company performs landscaping work that doesn't require a license, but he refused to provide the company's name.
Angie's List member Anh Do of Springfield, Va., says she she hired Custom Creation to construct a patio and fence and repair her deck. She says she paid $7,000 in advance, but fired them after friends in the construction industry saw photos of the work.
"They confirmed this company had no idea what they were doing," Do says, adding that Ryals also never applied for permits.
Custom Creation's record on the List - one of the worst in the Washington, D.C., market - includes 16 failing reports. The Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation revoked the license of Ryals' previous company, Cutting Edge Landscaping, in 2009 for violations.
Cutting Edge filed for bankruptcy the same year, claiming more than $300,000 in unsecured debts. The court closed the case last January with none paid because no assets remained.
A notice alerts members to the felony conviction and license revocation.
Acquired Home Services/Mold Aid | Gainesville, Va.
Acquired Home Services' record on Angie's List - one of the worst in the Washington, D.C., market - includes eight failing reports from members, some of whom claim the mold testing and remediation company left debris in their homes following remediation or failed to completely get rid of the mold.
Several say company owner John Taylor refused to address their complaints and became verbally abusive when they made them.
Taylor denies the allegations and says the negative reports represent only a small portion of his customers. "We have thousands upon thousands of happy clients," he told Angie's List Magazine.
In 2011, the AL screening process identified eight A-rated reviews for the poorly rated company came from memberships connected to Taylor. They were deleted and a notice was added to the company's Angie's List profile to alert members to the false reporting.
AHS, which also does business as Mold Aid, is suspended indefinitely from category and keyword searches. Taylor denies the reports are false, and says he offered discounts to customers in exchange for reports - a violation of Angie's List reporting rules.
The AHS/MA website advertises mold testing, mold remediation and general contracting in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. However, state records do not show Taylor holds the required license to perform mold testing or remediation in Virginia, general contracting in D.C. or home improvement in Maryland.
Taylor attested on AL in November that his company was compliant with the licensing requirements governing its trade. His attorneys, Jim Allen and Susan Simpson, did not provide requested documentation by press time proving AHS/MA's properly licensed.
Per court records, Bethesda, Md., member Lillian Klein Abelsohn won a $570 judgment against AHS in 2010 for damaging a table in her home; and Taylor reached an undisclosed settlement with Richmond, Va., member Sheila Mandt after they sued each other over alleged damages to her home.
McDaniels Homes | Lanham, Md.
Negotiations continued at press time for homebuilder Derek McDaniels to repay nearly $450,000 to 10 families. He's accused of taking their deposits for new home construction but failing to place them in an escrow account, begin or complete the construction or pay refunds, according to Alan Brody, spokesman for the Maryland attorney general's office.
The AG's consumer protection division issued the order for repayment, plus $87,000 in penalties, in August 2010. A notice on his Angie's List profile alerts members to the AG action.
One victim, Stevaughn Jones of Clinton, Md., gave McDaniels a $25,000 deposit to build a home in White Plains, Md., but he says the company did nothing beyond pouring the foundation. "He ruined our dreams," Jones says.
Attempts to reach McDaniels or his attorney were unsuccessful.
All State Plumbing Heating & Cooling | Finksburg, Md.
Master plumber Wayne Garrity and his company faces a March trial in Montgomery County on charges of fraud, deceptive trade practices and code violations. The Office of Consumer Protection accuses Garrity of charging customers extra for permit fees on water heater installations but never obtaining the permits, court records say.
The poorly rated company is also accused of not getting the units inspected by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, OCP Director Eric Friedman says. A yearlong investigation revealed more than 90 instances where Garrity didn't get a permit, yet charged customers inflated prices for them, he says. A notice alerts members to the OCP action.
Garrity pleaded guilty in April to 24 WSSC infractions as part of the same investigation. He agreed to pay a $7,200 fine and purchase permits and schedule inspections for 47 customers. Garrity says his company grew too big and too fast. His WSSC license revocation hearing was set for December.
- by Nick McLain, Paul F.P. Pogue and Meranda Watling