Md. homebuilder is penalized nearly $1.3 million for fraud

Work in Montgomery, Prince George's involved

July 21, 2005|By Ryan Basen | Ryan Basen,SUN STAFF

CLARIFICATION

An article in Thursday's Business section about a record homebuilder fine stated that the attorney general's office receives about 250 to 300 allegations of homebuilding fraud annually. Most of those regard construction defects.

A Maryland homebuilder has been penalized nearly $1.3 million for defrauding buyers, the Maryland attorney general reported yesterday - the latest financial penalty since a homebuilder registration program was created in 2001.

Jeffrey Bryant, owner of Advanced Building Solutions Inc. and the Precision Group Inc., neglected to protect consumer deposits he received, did not register the Precision Group and failed to build homes in Montgomery and Prince George's counties as promised for at least 32 residents, the attorney general's office said.

Bryant violated four homebuilding statutes and was fined $516,000 in civil penalties. He was also ordered to pay back $762,494.90 he collected to build the homes and $7,120.53 for other costs.

Bryant could not be reached for comment.

The penalties amounted to the largest ordered since the attorney general established a Home Builder Registration Unit under the Consumer Protection Division.

"It's very significant," Jeston Hamer Jr., assistant attorney general and director of the homebuilder unit, said yesterday. "There are 32 consumers affected by the actions of this builder, some who now don't have homes."

Fifteen other homebuilders were fined a total of $23,000 this month for infractions including failing to register or provide protection for customer deposits. Previously, the largest fine against a builder was about $100,000, Hamer said.

The attorney general acted against Bryant after investigating numerous complaints from consumers. Bryant illegally operated the Precision Group for about 16 months, the attorney general's office said.

In 2001, the state began requiring all homebuilders to register with the state before entering into contracts with customers. Advanced Building Solutions was registered.

"Before paying any money, consumers need to protect the biggest investment of their lifetime by ensuring that their home is being built by a registered homebuilder and that any deposits they make are protected by an escrow account, bond or letter of credit," Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said in a statement.

His office receives about 250 to 300 allegations of homebuilding fraud annually. That number has held steady even as the number of homebuilders in the state has increased by 500 during the past two years, Hamer said. Several other investigations are in progress, he said.

Buyer beware

Prospective buyers can contact the Home Builder Registration Unit at 410-576-6573 or visit its Web site - www.oag.state.md.us/homebuilder - to determine if a builder is registered and how the builder protects deposit money. Source: Maryland attorney general

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.