(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen K. Haller announced today the indictment of three individuals for engaging in a tree-trimming theft operation that targeted elderly victims in Greene, Butler, Franklin, and Montgomery Counties. The indictments were the result of a collaborative effort of the Attorney General, the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney, and other law enforcement agencies.
Today's announcement is the latest development in a statewide effort to increase the number of consumer protection cases tried criminally.
"In March, I pledged to devote more of the office's resources to helping prosecutors take criminal action against the most malicious scam artists operating in our state," DeWine said. "These indictments are a good example of how these partnerships can bring criminals to justice. I am pleased to be working with Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Haller and other law enforcement officials on this case, and I will continue to work in partnership with Ohio's county prosecutors to hold scam artists accountable."
A Greene County grand jury recently indicted Jason R. Johnson, Timothy Henery, and Christopher Gibbs for engaging in a theft enterprise that targeted elderly consumers. The enterprise deceived victims into believing they needed tree trimming or lawn care work because their trees were diseased, damaged, or unsafe. The individuals accepted money for work that was never completed, and infiltrated legitimate tree trimming companies to trick their victims into believing they were credible.
Timothy Henery and Christopher Gibbs have been served their indictments. Jason R. Johnson, the leader of the operation, has not been located. He is a 28-year-old white male whose last known address was 2852 Red Coach Drive in Springfield, Ohio. Law enforcement officials are asking anyone with information about Mr. Johnson's whereabouts to call the Greene County Sheriff's Office at 937-376-5111.
The investigation into this criminal enterprise involved law enforcement officers from the Greene County A.C.E. Task Force, the Greene County Sheriff's Office, the West Chester Police Department, the Kettering Police Department, and the Ohio Attorney General's Consumer Fraud Division.
Led by Principal Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Blanton, the Attorney General's Consumer Fraud Division works to identify potential criminal cases from the Consumer Protection Section, present them to local prosecutors, and coordinate assistance from the Ohio Attorney General's Office to aid in their prosecution.
Since March 2011, cases referred from the Ohio Attorney General's Consumer Fraud Division to local prosecutors have resulted in five indictments – three in Greene County, one in Hamilton County, and one in Jackson County. By comparison, in all of 2010, only two consumer cases that were referred to local prosecutors resulted in prosecutions.
Attorney General DeWine warns Ohioans to beware of any contractors who:
- Fail to provide proper identification
- Demand a large down payment (more than one third of the total cost)
- Use high-pressure sales tactics
- Have a poor reputation or no reputation with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)
- Refuse to provide written information
To protect themselves, consumers should follow these guidelines:
- Be cautious of people who knock on your door and want to do the work immediately.
- Businesses who solicit you at your home are required to give a three day right to cancel and should not begin the work before the three days.
- Get written estimates from several businesses, don't just go with the first estimate.
Consumers who believe they have been treated unfairly should file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
or by calling 800-282-0515.
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Lisa Hackley 614-466-3840
Dan Tierney 614-466-3840