Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ohio AG To Pursue Home Improvement Ripoffs As Criminal Prosecutions When Appropriate; Norm Has Been To Treat Cases As 'Civil Matters'

From the Office of the Ohio Attorney General:

  • A home-improvement scam prosecuted as a criminal offense led to a guilty plea by James Burchett of Amelia, Ohio, who was sentenced today in Hamilton County Court to 18 months in prison.

  • Such scams were normally handled as civil matters, but Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has made it a priority to treat these cases as criminal when appropriate.

  • "We have added additional people and resources to aid in the investigation and prosecution of these consumer protection cases," said Attorney General DeWine. "Working with local prosecutors' offices and law enforcement, we want to send the message to scammers that Ohio is not a good place for them to do business."

  • Burchett pled guilty to two counts each of theft and theft from the elderly. His crimes cost consumers $17,000 and included:

    1) Accepting almost $13,000 from an 87-year-old woman to install a fence. The job was partially done but the workmanship was shoddy.(1)

    2) Taking more than $1,000 for a concrete porch installation. The job was not done.

For the Ohio AG press release, see Home-Improvement Scammer Receives 18 Months in Prison.

(1) There seems to be a misconception among many cops, investigators and others in law enforcement that the only time you can prosecute a home improvement scam is if the scammer pockets the cash from the victim and does no work at all. The erroneous view is that if the scammer performs some work of value, the case falls outside the scope of criminality and the victims' only recourse is to go after scammers themselves by suing them in court.

The Ohio AG's action in this case is proof that such a view is erroneous, and is evidence that any cop or investigator who advises a victim that the case is a 'civil matter' is either clueless or someone who just doesn't feel like investigating the case.

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