West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed suit alleging an unlicensed Raleigh County plumbing contractor defrauded at least seven consumers of more than $5,700 in payments for plumbing projects the defendant would never finish.
The lawsuit targets Jerry Smales, who pretended to be a plumbing contractor even though he lacked any requisite licensing, according to a press release from the attorney general’s office. The suit seeks to block Smales from any future contracting work in West Virginia, in addition to the payment of restitution and penalties.
The alleged violations occurred through his operation of Mountaineer Plumbing and Beckley Plumbing.
“Anyone engaging in home improvement contracting of any type must complete their work,” Morrisey said in the release. “When someone believes he can disregard his obligations to his customers, he should expect vigorous litigation from our office.”
Smales operated Mountaineer Plumbing and Beckley Plumbing from a UPS store in Beckley, according to the civil complaint filed in Raleigh County Circuit Court.
The scheme victimized consumers dating back to December 2018, according to Morrisey. Most of the projects involved plumbing work, and all were in Raleigh County.
The attorney general alleges that Smales collected individual payments totaling $5,766.78 but never completed the work on any of the seven projects. He also never provided refunds, the suit alleges, despite being asked to do so by consumers. The complaint alleges that neither Smales nor any of his workers were licensed plumbers.
The complaint further asserts that when consumers complained about shoddy or uncompleted work, Smales served them with fake court documents filled with false statements and stalked them on social media to get them to pay bills they did not rightfully owe, Morrisey alleges.
The lawsuit charges Smales with unfair or deceptive practices, failure to complete work as promised and failure to notify consumers of the three-day right to cancel.
The attorney general seeks a court order to permanently prohibit Smales from any future contracting work, either as an owner, employee, subcontractor or other means.
The lawsuit also seeks a $5,000 penalty for each violation of the state’s consumer protection law, restitution for each consumer who has not yet obtained a judgment against the defendant and reimbursement for the state’s investigation and litigation expense.