BAY SHORE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island company will pay a $40,000 penalty for using deceptive practices to get business from Superstorm Sandy victims, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Thursday.
Within weeks of the storm last year, Schneiderman said G.C. Environmental, Inc., based in Bay Shore, mailed nearly 2,300 letters to property owners that closely resembled State Department of Environmental Conservation notices.
The letters were sent to people who had petroleum spills on their properties as the result of the storm and warned that the spills could result in DEC penalties of up to $25,000 per day, Schneiderman said. It then offered GC’s oil cleanup services in order to avoid the penalties, Schneiderman said.
“It’s unconscionable that a company would try to drum up business by preying on the misfortune and fears of victims of Sandy,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “G.C. Environmental’s actions were not only unscrupulous, they were illegal. My office is here to stop this kind of malfeasance and will hold this and any other company accountable for illegal actions.”
Schneiderman said the letterhead on the notices contained a logo very similar to the DEC logo and had the abbreviation “DER” underneath.
The letters were sent in an envelope with a return address for “Department of Environmental Remediation” — similar to the DEC’s Division of Environmental Remediation, which is referred to as DER, Schneiderman said.
The real DEC started getting concerned calls from people who received the letters. It then issued a “consumer alert” to the public saying that it did not write or send the letters and would not impose fines or penalties for oil spills resulting from the storm. The agency also said it would clean up the spills at no cost to the property owners.
In addition to the $40,000 settlement reached with New York State, Schneiderman said the company will also refund those who were deceived by the solicitation.
Any property owner who may have hired GC in response to their letter should contact the Attorney General’s office.
Schneiderman said 70 percent of the letters were sent to Long Island addresses and the other 30 percent were sent to addresses in Brooklyn and Queens.
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