January 16, 2011 - Jay Rice was successful in getting $7 million for homeowners who were defrauded by agent and developer. Finding that a developer and his construction agent violated state consumer fraud laws, a judge Friday ordered the pair to pay $7 million to a scientist who contracted in 2006 to buy a luxury home in Florham Park that is slowly sliding downhill and can't be occupied.

Superior Court Judge W. Hunt Dumont in Morristown found that Joseph Natale, a principal in JDN Properties of Florham Park LLC, and his construction agent, Randy DeLuca, founder of Deltrus LLC, engaged in "unconscionable commercial practices" to the detriment of former scientist Dr. Humayun Akhtar and his wife, Yosria.

The judge's award is made up of the $1.6 million cost of the 4,400-square-foot home on Beacon Hill Drive in Florham Park; $519,560 in tax, insurance, utility and other costs the Akhtars have incurred on the property they have never occupied; and $740,906 in legal fees.

The total award comes to $7,094,111 because the judge found that since fraud occurred, under the state's Consumer Fraud Act, he would impose triple damages, exclusive of the legal fees.

The judge found that architectural specifications were not followed when the home was built. Based upon testimony he heard during a proceeding known as a "proof hearing," the judge learned that soil conditions were not suitable to support the weight of the home and concrete footings were placed just 18 inches in the ground instead of the required 3 feet. Numerous cracks have appeared and at least part of the house is in long-term danger of collapsing, the judge noted.

While the home was still in the process of being finished, the Akhtars first learned it was deteriorating when a plumber visited in 2006, noticed cracks, and concluded "the house is sliding down the hill," the judge said.

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