The former owner of a Depew home improvement and construction business and one of his sons were jailed Wednesday and ordered to pay $72,505.09 in restitution to 16 families bilked on never-finished home improvement and barn-building jobs.
Though previously prosecuted in Ohio, North Carolina and Niagara County for similar construction frauds over the past decade, Edward L. Kwiatkowski, 59, told Erie County Judge Timothy J. Drury that he and his son John, 35, were just poor business managers.
Before Drury ordered Kwiatkowski to spend the next 18 months to four years in prison, and his son up to six months in jail, Assistant State Attorney General Dennis Rosen called the elder Kwiatkowski the criminal "patriarch" of a long-running scheme to cheat homeowners.
Rosen told the judge that the Kwiatkowskis had been spared jail terms in Niagara County three years ago on similar frauds because they agreed to repay their victims.
Drury ordered the elder Kwiatkowski to make $55,227.50 in restitution, and John Kwiatkowski, $17,277.59. He also ordered John Kwiatkowski to never again handle money, or sales, if he should re-enter the construction business after his jailing.
Edward Kwiatkowski is legally barred from home improvement work in both North Carolina and Ohio.
The judge told John Kwiatkow-ski he found it "disturbing" that he was heading down the same criminal path as his father until the attorney general's office halted their schemes last year.
Rosen told the judge that other victims contacted the attorney general's office after news reports of the indictments of the two last year.
Rosen also told the judge that Ontario County prosecutors may lodge criminal charges against the elder Kwiatkowski soon for similar frauds.
State Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer said the Kwiatkowskis had "violated the trust that hard-working homeowners placed in them" and vowed that his office "will vigorously prosecute cases like this involving unscrupulous contractors."