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Ocean County company allegedly took money from Superstorm Sandy victims

Staff Writer |
The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has filed an action against an Ocean County home improvement contracting company and two of its owners.

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They allegedly took more than $1.1 million from Superstorm Sandy victims – including over $898,000 in federal relief grants – and failing to begin or complete the contracted-for work.

The Price Home Group Limited Liability Company of Manahawkin, and its owners Jonathan Price of Manahawkin, and Scott Cowan of Demarest, took significant initial payments to elevate or replace Sandy-damaged homes then failed to begin work, performed the work in a substandard manner and/or abandoned unfinished projects without returning for weeks, months, or at all, according to the state’s Complaint filed in Ocean County Superior Court.

“Residents who trusted Jonathan Price and Scott Cowan to help them rebuild after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy were allegedly victimized again when these contractors took their money without delivering the work the residents paid for,” said Acting Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino.

“What makes this kind of greed even more repugnant is that these men allegedly preyed on people relying on financial assistance from the state to rebuild or restore their homes.”

The nine homeowners named in the Complaint were all recipients of grants from the Department of Community Affairs’ Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program, the state’s largest rebuilding initiative. The homeowners hired Price Home Group between September 2014 and June of 2015.

In addition to paying $898,331.11 in RREM funds to the Price Home Group, the nine homeowners collectively paid $220,483.28 out of pocket, according to the Complaint.

“This Division of Consumer Affairs will not allow unscrupulous contractors to make a quick, dishonest buck by exploiting the suffering of those who lost their homes in Superstorm Sandy,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “This action demonstrates our commitment to bringing these predatory operations to justice.”

“Dishonest contractors not only hinder Sandy-impacted families from rebuilding their homes, they also impede the state’s overall recovery effort,” said Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Charles A. Richman.

“We thank the Division of Consumer Affairs for diligently investigating Sandy contractor fraud claims and taking legal action against contractors when warranted. This important work shows the state is rooting out deceptive contractors and helping Sandy survivors get their rebuilding projects back on track.”

According to the Complaint, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy that ravaged New Jersey in 2012, Price and Cowan solicited customers through the Price Home Group website, touting the company as a “one stop solution” for Sandy victims looking to elevate their storm damaged homes or replace them with modular homes.

The Price Home Group website stated that “We understand the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused... By choosing to build with PHG, you can rest assured that we will always work our hardest to save you money, limit your tax liability and maximize your financing options and flood insurance benefits.”

As alleged in the Complaint, Price, Cowan, and Price Home Group actually failed to provide consumers with the contracted for home elevation or installation of modular homes, work which was paid for with RREM grants and the consumers’ monies.

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