(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine stood beside Central Ohio law enforcement officers to announce the indictments of seven people who ripped off elderly victims in Fairfield, Franklin, Pickaway, and Ross counties with their door-to-door home improvement scheme.
“These scammers preyed on people mostly in their 80’s and 90’s,” said DeWine. “They not only preyed upon them once, but in most cases, they continued their lies to get more money. And that has added up to a loss of $102,000 for more than a dozen victims. We know there are more victims, which is why this investigation is not over.”
The suspects typically would approach a homeowner with a story about something that needed to be fixed like 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’d already fixed the issue on the home (without permission), and they were owed money for the work.
After the payment check was written, the suspects would return later saying they’d overcharged the homeowner. They’d ask for a second check to be written, ensuring the homeowner that they hadn’t cashed the first check when, in fact, they had. The suspects pulled the check story scam over and over. One 89-year-old woman wrote 14 checks totaling $23,400. One 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.
“Twelve years ago, the Attorney General’s Office sent more than thirty people to prison for robbing senior citizens in this same kind of scam,” Attorney General DeWine said. “When we learned that some of the same people had served their prison time, gotten out, and were continuing their hunt for elderly victims in a new home repair scam, our investigators, along with so many other law enforcement detectives, worked tirelessly to put a stop to this.”
The “Circleville 30” was a group of relatives and friends who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from elderly homeowners, after claiming they’d done some type of home improvement work. In 2000, a taskforce led by the Attorney General’s Office convicted more than 30 people.
Ohio Attorney General DeWine’s Office became involved in May of 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 its creation by Attorney General DeWine in 2011.
The investigation continues and additional suspects may be charged at a later date.
Consumers’ best defense against scammers is education. When considering contractors for work at your home, don’t be pressured into any decision when someone comes to your door, obtain specifics of any job in writing, check on the company’s reputation before the work begins, and never pay all the money up front. For more consumer protection tips or to file a consumer complaint, go to www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or call 800-282-0515.
Suspect/Indictment Information (PDF)
Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Eve Mueller: 614-466-3840