Lawsuit alleges business played shell game

CHICAGO—Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a lawsuit has been filed against a former Winnebago County window replacement company and its owner.

The lawsuit alleges the business accepted more than $40,000 in down payments from Illinois consumers and used the money to pay off the business’ creditors instead of completing the contracted home improvement projects.

Madigan’s lawsuit charges Riley Windows, Inc., formerly in the 2400 block of South Alpine Road in Rockford, and James William Murray, company president and owner, with violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

In four months, between July and October 2004, Riley Windows allegedly accepted $43,000 in down payments from more than 50 consumers for the installation of replacement windows. Madigan’s office received complaints from consumers in Boone, Cook, DeKalb, McHenry, Ogle and Winnebago counties, as well as residents of Wisconsin.

In one complaint filed with Madigan’s Consumer Protection Division, a Winnebago County consumer alleged he had written a check for $3,700 to Riley Windows Oct. 2, 2004, as a deposit for window installation. Just a few days later, the consumer called Riley Windows to discuss the project and learned the company’s telephone number had been disconnected. The consumer then drove over to the company’s showroom and found it was closed and locked. Riley Windows has not completed the project or refunded the consumer’s deposit.

The defendants allegedly failed to begin any of the projects before closing for business on or about Oct. 5, 2004, and have not returned down payments to any of the consumers who currently hold unfulfilled contracts, Madigan’s lawsuit states.

“James William Murray knew that his business was in financial trouble, but instead of dealing honestly with his financial problems, Murray played a ‘shell game’ with his customers’ down payments,” Madigan said. “In the end, both his creditors and the state of Illinois caught on to this illegal game.”

Riley Windows filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division Bankruptcy Court, Oct. 14, 2005.

Madigan’s lawsuit, filed Nov. 3 in Winnebago County Circuit Court, alleges Riley Windows and owner Murray violated Illinois’ consumer protection laws by falsely representing that they would order and install windows for consumers, failing to return down payments to consumers and falsely representing they were in good business standing and able to fulfill the terms of their contracts.

Madigan’s lawsuit asks the court to prohibit the defendant from engaging in the business of window sales and installation, and from further violating Illinois’ consumer protection laws. The lawsuit also seeks a civil penalty of $50,000 and additional penalties of $50,000 for each violation found to have been committed with the intent to defraud. Additionally, Madigan’s lawsuit asks the court to order the defendants to pay restitution to consumers. Assistant Attorney General Russell McLaughlin is handling the case for Madigan’s Consumer Protection Division.

From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2005, issue

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