SEWELL, N.J. - Customers who wanted to spruce up their backyards gave business to a South Jersey contractor named the "Godfather of Concrete."
But they say they got trouble. And now, these families are asking for justice. Jeff Cole has this FOX 29 Investigates report.
"In the beginning of the summer, when this project was starting, we figured it was going to be a big summer," said Atco, N.J., homeowner Ron Fallon, with his wife, Nancy, by his side.
Six months later, their backyard still has wooden forms, dirt and stone where new concrete should be.
What happened? The "Godfather of Concrete" made them an offer – they wish they refused.
"When you stand here and look at this, what do you think?" Cole asked.
"I feel, I'm just blown away that this has happened," Fallon said.
Anthony DiMatteo is the self-proclaimed "Godfather." His wife, Kim Monaco, owns the business. They use images from the classic "Godfather" mafia movie trilogy on yard signs and online.
Last week, we went to ask DiMatteo why several local families are lining up against him.
"Come on man, you're the Godfather of Concrete, right?" Cole asked.
"Yeah, that's me, buddy," DiMatteo answered as he went into his Sewell home.
We'll try him again later.
The Fallons were referred to DiMatteo, signed a contract in May and paid one-third up front.
Problems soon arose. Work was delayed when he couldn't change the pool edging.
A few days into the work, he asked for the next installment.
Fallon said DiMatteo asked, "Can I get the other third for the deposit for the concrete delivery?" and he said, "No problem."
The truck doesn't come the next day, or the day after that.
"And he never came back," Fallon said.
They went back and forth about the job. Then, Ron – who was hurt years ago in a roofing accident – heard DiMatteo go from business to personal in the background during a phone call.
"He called me a cripple M-F'er," Fallon said. "I don't want to repeat exactly what he had said. And, as soon as I heard it, I just slowly put the phone down, and I was in more of a shock."
DiMatteo failed to appear for small claims court, twice, and the Fallons won a $2,700 judgment.
They hope to collect that money because they also have to repair their pool liner. Rain water washed under the pool when their job wasn't finished.
"You can see the whole deck right here, it just snapped," Fallon said, showing Cole the damage. "So, it came down about an inch, to a half an inch to be exact."
Supporting the Fallons in court last month were other families with claims against the Godfather.
Walt and Sherry McGuire eventually got a paver patio they love behind their new Mantua home. But they say it wasn't from DiMatteo, who they hired after considering four contractors and checking him out.
"What did you think when you first saw that name, the Godfather of Concrete?" Cole asked.
"Well, I thought it was interesting," Walt McGuire said. "And I think that sometimes catchy names like that are something – sure it's gimmicky, but it sure catches your eye you know? So it piqued my interest."
Their $5,700 patio project began in August. Day two, the work crew couldn't make it. And the problems mounted.
"The pillars were offset, so this one, over here on the right, was actually about eight inches back and out of skew," Walt McGuire said.
Sherry McGuire added another example: "I realized, oh wait a minute, that's all straight, we wanted it like a herring bone pattern."
They asked a stone company to examine the work.
"The first thing he did was he dug his hand down in the sand, and he said, 'This is only supposed to be an inch-and-a-half deep,'" Walt McGuire recalled. "And he says, 'This … is at least six inches deep.' He says, 'This patio's just going to collapse.' And he says, 'Your back wall, the first good rain you get, it's just going to roll down the hill.'"
DiMatteo said he'd fix it but stopped responding until Walt posted a complaint on Facebook. They agreed to part ways if Godfather brought a missing fire pit and repaid $1,500.
The McGuires took his check to the bank, where Sherry was told there were "insufficient funds," meaning it bounced. And they didn't get the fire pit.
Then, things turned nasty. They claim DiMatteo made threats to embarrass their family.
They're pursuing a bad checks case against DiMatteo and paid another contractor $7,100 to re-do the project.
But a third couple from Williamstown – who asked us not to identify them due to her line of work – shelled out even more.
They liked photos of DiMatteo's concrete stamping and coloring. They paid $7,680 for a retaining wall, walkway and patio.
"It was supposed to be like a hardwood floor brown color," the woman told us. "It's supposed to be shiny-looking wood, and it is gray, like old boardwalk look."
Soon after the September concrete pour they found it was less thick than promised, the walkway was uneven, and there were cracks, spots, ripples, a hose mark and a boot print.
The homeowner told us, "He forgot to put expanding joints in against our pool concrete, and eventually it's going to push the walls of our new pool in."
They already paid another contractor nearly $10,000 to rip it all out and replace it.
When DiMatteo wouldn't provide insurance details, they went to the state.
The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs tells FOX 29 it's reviewing two consumer complaints against the Godfather of Concrete.
Again, when we tried talking to DiMatteo, he went striding into the house, shut the door and wouldn't answer when we rang the bell.
"Can I talk to you about it real quickly, before you go in?" Cole asked.
"Take care," the contractor replied.
But he phoned us that night.
DiMatteo told us he's registered with the state as a home improvement contractor. The state says he isn't, and failure to do so can bring a $10,000 fine.
DiMatteo claims the Fallons made too many changes to their job. He didn't even know they won against him in court. And he keeps calling Ron a "bleeping" cripple.
He suggests the McGuires wouldn't pay for the second half of their project but admits bouncing a check. He denies the threat to embarrass their family.
The third family, he says, was tough to deal with and wanted more work than they would pay for.
He told us he did time in the federal penitentiary for possession of a firearm and kidnapping. We found other convictions, some using the alias "Anthony Kuhne."
A bankruptcy filing this year shows he already owes restitution on five other cases. His wife went into bankruptcy last year.
Godfather's customers have this message for the public.
"Don't use the Godfather of Concrete, if I could let anybody know," Fallon said.
"You'd never use him again, obviously?" Cole asked.
"Oh, would never even think about him," Fallon said.
DiMatteo is due in Mantua Municipal Court in January to face that bad checks charge. The state is reviewing those two consumer complaints.
Remember, these businesses must register with states, which have contractor searches available online, Cole reported.