CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Cheektowaga family is demanding their money back from a local contractor, claiming the business failed to build a new fence as they promised.

Tom Ruiz and his fiancé Caroline Loncher had a summer home improvement project — they were going to tear down their old fence adjacent to JFK High School and Middle School in Cheektowaga and put up a new fence.

“It was raggedy, it wasn’t straight, it was actually really bowed it was leaning, starting to lean over it was just time to replace it, it looked like it had been there for like 30 years,” Tom said.

So, they hired Lake Effect Services, LLC, paying them over $9,000 up front. For months they’ve dealt with James Vaccaro, a representative of the company, who refused to do an on camera interview with News 4.

“We called a couple places a handful and he was one of the guys that called right back and he seemed like he was genuine and he was on top of it,” Tom said.

After paying for the job in May, Tom says materials and equipment eventually arrived.

“And then a guy shows up and then he cuts down the fence and leaves all the post just sitting there and he cut all the fence all the fence panels down and left all the fence panels,” Tom said.

And that’s when the work stopped with materials for the fence just sitting there. So, Tom and a few family members went to YouTube and learned how to build a fence themselves.

“Its been a huge burden, one I had to cancel my job, I travel and I had to cancel my work for the fall,” Tom said.

Tom has been seeking a refund from Lake Effect Services, which according to the Better Business Bureau is located in the City of Tonawanda. The company claims it has a shop on Bedell Road in Grand Island. But, it appears to be more of a storage location.

James Vaccaro of Lake Effect Services, which might go under the name Concrete Experts, tells News 4 by phone that he couldn’t get laborers for Tom and Caroline’s fence because of ongoing construction of the new Bills Stadium. He also says he’s been dealing with health issues.

“I’ve texted him and I said listen I understand if you don’t have the labor to do it, then don’t do it at all, leave the fence alone, we’ll figure it out, just pay me my money back and we’ll go from there,” Tom said.

Tom and Caroline are seeking a refund of $7,000 because materials for the job were used and they contacted Call 4 Action. Tom says the refund should be a lot higher because he had to take off of work. Initially, Lake Effect Services told us that they wouldn’t be able to pay Tom back until they got snow plowing money ahead of the winter. Now, the company is saying they’ll pay Tom back by the end of the week, we’ll see what happens.

Before hiring a contractor, the BBB recommends consumers keep the following tips in mind:

  • Shop around and get multiple quotes before making a decision
  • Avoid paying in full up front – many contractors will allow customers to split payments at the beginning and end of a job or beginning, middle, and end of a job
  • Get everything in writing – make sure you have a written contract and understand exactly what’s in it before signing, and don’t allow work to begin without one
  • Ask your contractor for references and review work they have done in the past
  • Use as a resource – on their website you can view business profiles and reviews of contractors in your area

Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.