PROVIDENCE – Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office has taken enforcement action against a North Smithfield man who held himself out as a contractor despite not having the proper registration or licenses for the work he agreed to perform, and initially pocketed $15,000 from a Rhode Island consumer.
In an Agreement of Voluntary Compliance, approved in Rhode Island Superior Court on () Feb. 23, the office alleged that Kennedy Bui of North Smithfield performed incomplete and substandard work, failed to obtain required building permits, and eventually abandoned a home remodeling project after receiving a substantial cash deposit in violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
As a result of the Agreement, Bui agreed to provide the consumer full restitution of $15,000, plus pay a civil penalty to the Office of the Attorney General of $1,000, and agreed to cease performing unregistered or unlicensed work.
“Given the high demand for home improvement work and rising costs for materials during the pandemic, Rhode Island consumers are placed at risk of falling victim to scams,” said Neronha. “Unscrupulous contractors often demand large, up-front payments before performing incomplete and shoddy work. My message to these types of predatory businesses: our Office stands ready to protect consumers and businesses who play by the rules, and if you break the law and rip people off Rhode Islanders, we will be there to ensure you are held accountable.
According to the office, Bui entered into a contract to perform remodeling work on a customer’s master bedroom and three bathrooms, among other areas. The contract included significant plumbing, electric, and structural framework inside the home. Bui was not licensed as either an electrician or a plumber with the Department of Business Regulation.
Bui accepted a $15,000 deposit to begin the work on the project in February 2021, which was estimated to cost $22,500. Upon receipt, he began significant demolition, electrical, and plumbing work in the home. However, over time Bui reportedly became less and less responsive before eventually abandoning the project. The consumer was left living in a home with incomplete work and exposed wiring and unable to get their deposit back.
A release this week noted that in 2021, Neronha worked with the General Assembly to pass legislation that restored the authority of the Attorney General to protect Rhode Island consumers against violations of the DTPA. Other efforts led by the Attorney General under the newly-strengthened DTPA include lawsuits against auto dealers for allegedly unfair pricing practices and a suit against a contractor for allegedly unlawful behavior, as well as other investigations.
Special Assistant Attorney General Stephen Provazza, Chief of the Consumer & Economic Justice Unit, and Investigator Julissa Ulloa Nin handled the matter on behalf of the Attorney General.