Image: Andre Malok

Image: Andre Malok

Christopher Baxter and Matthew Stanmyre, NJ.com, December 6, 2016, Updated December 16, 2016

Top lawmakers on Tuesday issued a sweeping call for accountability, including potential civil and criminal investigations as well as a class-action lawsuit, in response to allegations of fraud by the leading maker of artificial sports fields.

"The report that this company aggressively marketed a defective product, misled the schools and municipalities that purchased the turf and tried to conceal its actions and what it knew is extremely disturbing," Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said in a statement

The reactions came two days after a national investigation by NJ Advance Media revealed that, for years, FieldTurf sold high-end turf to towns and schools across the U.S. without disclosing that its executives knew the turf was falling apart and would not live up to marketing claims.

Despite candid internal discussions about those problems and their overblown sales pitches, records show, FieldTurf executives kept taxpayers in the dark. The company went on to earn millions of dollars on what became the country's hottest-selling brand of artificial turf.

Many of the fields have since fallen apart long before they should.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) called FieldTurf's actions "very worrisome" and encouraged towns and schools "to examine all potential legal remedies." The company has already been the target of about a dozen lawsuits, but none out of New Jersey.

FieldTurf officials conceded nearly one of every five U.S. Duraspine fields has been replaced under warranty. The true number of afflicted fields could be far higher, however, because the company has never notified every customer of the problem.