TOMS RIVER - A couple who were victims of Superstorm Sandy say they were victimized again by a contractor who used a forged license. The contractor denies the accusation, but a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds parts of his story don’t add up.
Jeannie Kanterezhi and Gabrielle Gatto’s home in Toms River suffered significant flood damage after Sandy. In fact, News 12 New Jersey featured them in a segment in November 2012. When it came time to pick a contractor, the women picked John Auriemma, in part because they say he showed them a document indicating he was a licensed carpenter. The license was purportedly issued by the NJ Board of Examiners of Carpentry, which it claimed was part of the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Kanterezhi and Gatto paid Auriemma approximately $20,000 but claim he only did about $3,000 worth of work, so they filed a Consumer Affairs complaint. That’s when they learned New Jersey does not license carpenters – it merely requires all home improvement professionals to register – and there is no such agency as the Board of Examiners of Carpentry. The license was clearly a fake. “Whoever hears our story, they’re just shocked,” Kanterezhi says.
Saying he had nothing to hide, Auriemma spoke with Kane In Your Corner. He said he did more work than the couple gave him credit for, but offered a 25 percent refund, which Gatto and Kanterezhi rejected. He also denied having anything to do with the fake license, saying he had never even seen it before.
But Kane In Your Corner finds parts of Auriemma’s story do not hold up. For example, Auriemma claimed the address on the fake license “means nothing to me,” but News 12 New Jersey found Auriemma used to live there, and his father still does. The elder Auriemma, informed about the accusations against his son, said, “I hope they lock him up forever.” In addition, the number on the fake license corresponds to the real registration number of a home improvement company whose owner says Auriemma worked with him and had access to his records. Finally, shortly after Auriemma spoke to Kane In Your Corner, he was arrested by Toms River police on a complaint of falsifying records and theft by deception.
There is some good news for Kanterezhi, Gatto and their two children. A local charity heard about their plight and helped to finish the work at a reduced cost. But they say they still wound up out thousands of dollars. As for Auriemma, the charges against him are still pending, but the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs says that since his dispute with the couple, he has now legitimately registered with the state as a home improvement contractor.