Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > May 2013 > Home Repair Scammers Indicted for Targeting Elderly Victims
Home Repair Scammers Indicted for Targeting Elderly Victims
In April, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine stood beside Central Ohio law enforcement officers to announce indictments against seven people who ripped off elderly victims in Fairfield, Franklin, Pickaway, and Ross counties with their door-to-door home improvement scheme.
The scammers preyed on people mostly in their 80s and 90s, with losses totaling $102,000 for more than a dozen known victims.
The suspects typically approached a homeowner with a story about something that needed to be fixed, such as a roof or chimney. The homeowner would agree to the work, only to learn later the bill was much higher than expected and little or no work was performed. Sometimes the suspects would approach a homeowner declaring they already had fixed the issue on the home (without permission) and were owed money for the work.
After the payment check was written, the suspects would return later saying they had overcharged the homeowner. They would ask for a second check to be written, ensuring the homeowner that they had not cashed the first check when, in fact, they had. The suspects pulled the check story scam over and over. An 89-year-old woman wrote 14 checks totaling $23,400, and an 86-year-old man lost nearly $50,000 writing 29 checks.
Bruce McFarland, Herschel Mumaw, Mark Christman, Mark Kitchen, Michael Fausnaugh, David Ramey, and Thristian Harding, all from the Circleville area, were indicted in Fairfield County on multiple felony counts, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, money laundering, and theft from an elderly person. McFarland and Mumaw, both of whom were sent to prison as part of the “Circleville 30” convictions more than a decade ago, now face a maximum of 57 years in prison if convicted.
In 2000, a task force led by the Attorney General’s Office convicted more than 30 people for robbing senior citizens in this same kind of scam. The “Circleville 30” was a group of relatives and friends who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from elderly homeowners after claiming they had done some type of home improvement work.
When Attorney General DeWine’s office learned that individuals who had served their time were now committing the same crimes, it teamed up with law enforcement to put a stop to it.
The Attorney General’s Office became involved in May 2012 when a victim contacted the Consumer Protection Section. Economic Crimes Unit investigators started digging — with great cooperation from the Columbus Police Department, Chillicothe Police Department, Circleville Police Department, Madison Township Police Department, Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, Fairfield County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation — and uncovered the pattern, the suspects, and the organized scam.
Attorneys from the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Unit have been appointed as special prosecutors in Fairfield County to handle the case. The unit has charged 64 suspects and obtained 35 criminal convictions in consumer-related cases since Attorney General DeWine created it in 2011.
The investigation is ongoing, and additional suspects may be charged.