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Buyer beware

Buyer beware

Swindled couple learns costly lesson, wants to warn others

By Willie Kiernan

Jim and Nicole McLean have been in Cazenovia for only a few years. Coming from the Manlius area, they were looking for a secluded spot with some land. When they found what they were looking for, they knew they'd probably stay for a long time. They located a brand new house, out of view from the road, on Route 13 on a hill with a winding driveway. They live there now with their three little girls.

The first year they were approached by a man who offered to do wonders with their yard. The second year, the man returned with his father, a skilled mason, and a portfolio of the types of creations they had completed in the past. Finally, a contract was signed on May 4 of this year and a handshake confirmed that the man was hired to build five retaining walls and a blue stone patio. The entire project was to take six weeks and would cost the McLeans $25,000.

Nicole is a drug rep and Jim works the third shift at a correctional institution in the Mohawk Valley area. They would need to apply for a home equity loan to finance the job but considered it a wise investment and envisioned themselves enjoying the new patio for the better part of the summer. There was an initial deposit of $9,000 and then another $8,000 when the materials arrived. They paid, but were a little disconcerted about the haphazard manner in which the stones and materials were dumped upon their lawn.

From the beginning the McLeans feared the worst when the mason would only show up two days a week for maybe three hours per day. He brought along a petite woman as his helper; she did all the lifting. A few weekends passed with other helpers, men who would return from lunch with red, squinty eyes and garbled speech. These people would use the McLeans' tools freely, come and go at anytime and use language unsuitable for family ears. With $17,000 invested, there was only hope.

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