Kristi Polignone of Blooming Grove, widow of an Iraq War vet, hired a contractor to build a deck, but the job was barely started. Polignone’s story has caught the ears of local groups that help veterans and their families. Here, Polignone talks with contractor Angelo Ferrante, who has offered to finish the deck. DOMINICK FIORILLE/ Times Herald-Record
Contractor took $1,400, disappeared
By John Sullivan
Published: 2:00 AM – 08/03/12
Blooming Grove — Kristi Polignone was afraid the contractor she found on Craigslist was too good to be true.
Her fears, it turns out, were well-founded.
The $2,100 estimate Anthony Serino gave her for the deck she wanted fell almost half below what other contractors quoted her.
Still, she wanted the deck for her daughter, who lit up at the idea of jumping off of it into their pool.
“I told him, ‘I’m afraid of being scammed. I want references,’” Polignone recalled.
So the contractor gave her three. Polignone got in touch with one of them.
The man on the other end told her Serino arrived late and tried to cut corners, but in the end did good work.
Polignone took the leap and signed the contract. Six months later, the deck is unbuilt and Polignone is out $1,400.
Serino could not be reached for comment.
The widow of an Iraq War veteran, Polignone’s story has caught the attention of local active and inactive troops who mobilized a community response.
Within hours of a Facebook post by Chester Supervisor Steve Neuhaus, a Naval reservist and head of a support group for veterans of recent wars, a contractor and a lawyer volunteered to help. Angelo Ferrante of Hudson Valley Contracting Group in New Hampton offered to take care of the deck.
Thomas Tripodianos, a construction, labor and real estate lawyer, plans to go after Serino.
“It looks like this guy is in a pattern of doing this,” said Tripodianos, who found a long list of judgments against the builder dating back to 1990.
The contractor, whose full name is Robert Anthony Serino, is a former cop and code enforcement officer for the Village of Brewster in Putnam County.
He also has worked as an assistant building inspector for the Town of Dover in Dutchess County.
Serino has been charged with six counts of felony grand larceny, according to a 2010 state police report.
Though he left the Brewster police force in 2008, Serino is accused of passing himself off as a police officer to undocumented immigrants, offering to get them New York state drivers’ licenses for $45 each. The disposition of the case could not be learned Thursday.
Polignone said Serino dug a few holes in her yard and dropped off lumber at her home in March, but hasn’t done any work since.
He’s been in sporadic contact with the family, and just last Friday promised to send Polignone a refund by Monday, she said.
The check hasn’t arrived.
• State law requires a contractor to provide a written contract for home improvement work. The contract should include a timeline for work to be completed, a payment plan and specifics such as types of materials.
• Get references. Check the contractor’s record at the Better Business Bureau: www.bbb.org.
• Don’t pay the full price upfront. Establish a payment schedule and stick to it. Withhold final payment until all work is completed to your satisfaction.
Source: New York State Attorney General’s Office