In mid-July, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen K. Haller announced 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 latest development in a statewide effort to increase the number of consumer protection cases prosecuted criminally.
During National Consumer Protection Week in March 2011, Attorney General DeWine pledged to devote more of the office’s resources to helping prosecutors take criminal action against scam artists operating in the state.
In Greene County, a grand jury 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 the 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.
Ohioans should beware of 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 offering to do work immediately.
- Remember that businesses who solicit you at your home are required to give you a three-day right to cancel and should not begin the work until the three-day cancellation period has ended.
- Get written estimates from several businesses; don't just go with the first estimate.
File a consumer complaint
Request a free consumer awareness workshop
Sign up to receive the Consumer Advocate e-newsletter