If you’ve been following this column recently, you know Sekelsky Plumbing and Heating, of Duryea, has had problems delivering products and services paid for in advance by trusting customers.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office has opened an investigation into the firm, citing a “pattern” of complaints from customers who claim they’ve been ripped off and lied to by owner Joe Sekelsky.
The attorney general’s involvement could mean Sekelsky will have to make things right with those folks or possibly land in jail.
Attorney general’s office spokeswoman Sadie Martin says investigators will examine Sekelsky’s registration with the state, check his insurance and go through his project contracts to “make sure he’s not scamming his customers.”
“At that point, we say, ‘this is what we found and need you to fix, or we’ll go to court,’” Martin explained. “He can either finish the job without additional cost, or pay back the money they gave him.”
Presumably, that means Sekelsky will have to deliver a new furnace to Dr. Christine Renfer, of Pittston, or refund her $6,000; he will finish the job he started at the Glen Lyon home of James and Melissa Cunningham or issue them a $454 refund for the fuel line he never installed; he’ll deliver a steam pipe to Benjamin Schultz, of Exeter, or refund $300, and he’ll pay back Vicki Brzoza $3,163 for work he never completed at her home in Pittston.
“We want consumers to get the products or get their money,” said Martin, who explained once the attorney general wins a case against a home improvement contractor, a judge will order monthly status hearings to make sure the contractor is either making payments or getting the jobs done. If not, “he can be put in jail for contempt.”
I got a call from Sekelsky, demanding a retraction of something I wrote in last week’s column. I had reported he collected an additional $1,000 when he installed a long-awaited furnace for Diane Plisga and Jesse Rutkoski, of Duryea, who had already paid him $6,000 in advance.
Sekelsky said I had it wrong. The contract totaled $6,891.70, he explained. He collected the final payment of $891.70 – not $1,000 – at installation. He did not mention why he charged Plisga and Rutkoski $6,000 for the Williamson GSA-200 gas-fired unit, which they could have purchased online for about $2,700, including shipping.
Sekelsky said he did give them the manufacturer’s warranty and “a promised free cleaning in the fall.”
What about the other customers he’d left high and dry, I asked.
“There are a couple of things I’m going to take care of,” he assured me. “I’m going to take care of Ben Schultz. I’m going to mail him a check.”
The Cunninghams will also get a check, he said, promising to send them $454 before the magistrate hearing scheduled for later this month. “I didn’t get to tell my side of the story, but I’m going to clear that up.”
And what about Dr. Renfer? I asked.
“We’ll go over that,” Sekelsky replied.
“She gave you $6,000 and she doesn’t have a furnace,” I said. “If she gave you money and she didn’t get what she paid for, you should pay her back, right?”
“We’ll discuss that at another time,” Sekelsky said
Meanwhile, Dr. Renfer and other consumers with contractor problems can file a complaint at www.attorneygeneral.gov. They can also call the attorney general’s consumer hotline at 1-800-441-2555 or email a complaint to email@example.com.