The Illinois Attorney General has filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to shutter a Riverside-based home improvement company and strip its alleged owner of the ability to conduct business anywhere in the state.
On May 2, Attorney General Lisa Madigan charged Ronald W. Kafka and Father & Sons Contractors Inc. with consumer fraud and deceptive practices that have allegedly cost consumers thousands of dollars.
Madigan has asked the court to impose a penalty that would effectively prohibit Kafka or any of the companies associated with him from doing business in Illinois. The suit also seeks revocation of all business licenses associated with Kafka and seeks revocation of the corporate charter for Father & Sons Contractors.
In addition, the suit asks the court to require a $50,000 civil payment for “each and every violation of the Consumer Fraud Act,” including an additional $10,000 payment for a violation of the Consumer Fraud Act or Deceptive Business Practices Act committed against anyone 65 years old and older.
In a statement released May 3, Madigan alleged that “Mr. Kafka and his companies are repeat offenders when it comes to home repair and remodeling violations. … They have allegedly cheated consumers for more than a quarter of a century.
“It’s time for Mr. Kafka to retire.”
This is the fourth lawsuit the Illinois Attorney General has leveled against Kafka since 1980, but the first time the state has sought to prohibit him from doing business. In 1980, a court “prohibited certain acts” by Kafka and one of his companies in response to a suit brought by the Attorney General’s Office.
The Attorney General’s Office in 1985 filed suit against Kafka and three companies allegedly associated with him. In 1989, the court imposed a $50,000 penalty and prohibited Kafka and his companies from engaging in 52 specific business practices.
A 2002 lawsuit filed against Kafka and a separate company called Father & Sons Remodelers for alleged consumer fraud is still pending.
Reached last Friday, Paul Arvites, attorney for Father and Sons Contractors, said that Kafka was “semi-retired” and that he hadn’t reviewed the suit thoroughly. The suit, Arvites said, appeared to be “baseless and without any foundation in law or fact.”
“We’re not going to try this case in the press,” Arvites said. “I anticipate it will be dismissed before it ever gets to trial. … I’m sure we’ll be contesting it vigorously.”
Arvites added that in the wake of the lawsuit’s filing, many of the firm’s customers had called to express their support.
Father & Sons Contractors was incorporated, according to Madigan, after the 2002 lawsuit was filed and the Better Business Bureau gave Father & Sons Remodelers an unfavorable rating. The business still operated out of Riverside, while using a mail drop in Countryside as the new corporation’s address.
In response to the 2002 lawsuit, according to Madigan, Kafka claimed to be only “an agent” of the company, and not its owner.
Since 2003, Madigan said that the Attorney General’s Office has fielded over 40 complaints against Kafka and Father & Sons Contractors.
In the suit filed last week, Madigan outlined a host of alleged violations of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, including performing shoddy work that caused damage to homes that often went unrepaired; arranging for consumer loans despite the fact that the purported loan companies are not licensed to do so; cutting and pasting architect signatures, seals and licenses from one document to another in order to obtain building permits; failing to complete work; failing to refund downpayments for unfinished work despite written demands by the Office of the Attorney General; and deceiving consumers by claiming Kafka is not the owner and has no control over Father & Sons Contractors, “when, on information and belief, he controls every aspect of Father & Sons Contractors Inc.”
To illustrate the alleged violations, the lawsuit cites 21 separate instances, including projects the company was allegedly involved with in both Riverside and Brookfield.
According to Madigan, Kafka arranged for Father & Sons to do a bathroom remodeling project at a home in Riverside in November 2004. After writing checks for two-thirds of the contract price and never seeing any workers show up to do the job, the homeowners stopped payment on one of the checks and asked for the rest of their money back.
On April 5, 2006, the Illinois Attorney General wrote a letter demanding a refund be given to the customer. As of the lawsuit’s filing, the refund had not been made.
In October 2004, according to the suit, Kafka contracted with an 83-year-old Brookfield woman to replace the front porch of her home. But instead of replacing the rotting structure with new wood, workers allegedly nailed new decking to rotting floor joists, replaced stair treads with salvaged wood and violated a village stop-work order, among other things.
Madigan sent a letter to Father & Sons Contractors on April 5 demanding a full refund be given to the woman. As of the lawsuit’s filing, that refund had not ben made.
“This is without a doubt one of the worst cases we have ever seen,” Madigan said. “Mr. Kafka reincarnates himself and his companies to avoid the legal consequences of his actions. He can no longer avoid those legal consequences.”