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Media > Newsletters > On the Job: Criminal Justice Update > Summer 2018 > Q&A: J. Bartley Cosgrove, director of the Economic Crimes Unit of the Ohio Attorney General’s Consum

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Criminal Justice Update

Q&A: J. Bartley Cosgrove, director of the Economic Crimes Unit of the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section

The Economic Crimes Unit works with county prosecutors and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute consumer-related crimes.

Could you briefly explain what the Economic Crimes Unit does?

Attorney General Mike DeWine made it a priority to criminally prosecute scammers that target Ohioans. He created the Consumer Protection Section’s Economic Crimes Unit (ECU) to combat criminal consumer fraud. ECU investigates crimes that don’t receive federal attention, but at the same time, crimes, whose multijurisdictional reach, can hinder local police from seeing a scam’s full impact.

What are economic crimes? What does the unit investigate?

“Economic crime” doesn’t have a universally accepted definition. It’s a theft-based crime that has levels of concealment to hide the suspect’s true identity. This includes contactor fraud, grandparent scams, romance scams, embezzlement, and money laundering. These crimes are committed by white-collar professionals and career criminals alike.

How many people work in the unit? How many are investigators? How many attorneys?

ECU operates much like a small prosecutor’s office. The unit consists of four attorneys and four investigators who are dedicated solely to criminal investigations. Additionally, the unit has an investigative assistant who assists in all phases, from case intake to trial preparation. Staff members are located in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland.

How many of the investigations have led to convictions?

ECU has obtained 135 convictions. Over the last seven years, we have obtained $5 million in court restitution orders. In some cases, consumers have recovered all of their money. Consumers in one case received full restitution of $150,000 and $43,000 in another case.

Where do your cases come from?

We receive referrals from different sources. The Consumer Protection Section provides a steady source of consumer complaints that need to be reviewed. Once we work with local police departments, it’s common that they become a source of future referrals. Our investigators and attorneys are the best diplomats for the service we provide. They take pride in their work product, and I think it shows in the results we have obtained over the years.

How do you work with local law enforcement?

It’s a partnership. Sometimes, police seek our assistance; other times, we alert them to new scams. When we work on an investigation together, we often obtain and review the financial information that is necessary for the foundation of a case. This frees up the detective’s time to work on another part of the case, or on a different investigation altogether. Today, most scams have some telecommunications component. Yet, some agencies don’t have experience with electronic search warrants. We can help in this area.   

How do you help county prosecutors?

County prosecutors have a tough job. Their dockets are full of cases that directly impact the quality of life in their county. Financial crime cases are time intensive. ECU attorneys are frequently appointed as special prosecutors and handle these cases from beginning to end. This service is provided at no cost to the prosecutor or taxpayer.

Could you tell us about a case of note? Maybe a case that made a big difference for a community?

In 2013, we indicted the owners of a home-repair business for stealing more than $139,000 from 35 victims in a storm-chasing roofing scam in southeast Ohio. Patrick Richard Jr. and his company All Seasons of Kentucky Inc. swept through Lawrence County and accepted insurance funds from the victims for new roofs before leaving town. The homeowners received nothing in return.

Patrick Richard was charged in Lawrence County with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft, theft from the elderly, money laundering, and receiving stolen property. It was an important case to indict because of their widespread fraud. The owner was sentenced to prison and some money was recovered for the victims. This case is a good example of how ECU worked hand and glove with the local police department and prosecutor’s office. I’m still proud of the work our unit did on this case.

In the time that you’ve been with the unit, has there been an increase or decrease in cases? Why?

I have been with the unit since it was created, and each year has seen an increase in referrals. The increase, in part, can be attributed to mobile devices. Internet based fraud does not stop at a county boundary or state line.

Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

On occasion, ECU contributes to federal investigations. A few years ago, an Ohio consumer reported losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a romance scam. ECU investigated the case and notified federal authorities. Our assistance helped lead to the indictment of a Maryland man on charges related to a scheme to defraud elderly individuals of more than $1.1 million.

The Cosgrove File

Previous jobs: Assistant attorney general, Consumer Protection Section, Economic Crimes Unit; assistant Hamilton County prosecuting attorney

Education:  Juris Doctor, Cleveland State University, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law; Bachelor of Arts, Loyola University Maryland

Family: Wife, Judge Megan Shanahan; two children, Dolan 4, Claire 16 months

Contact: 513-852-3487, 441 Vine St., 16th Floor, Cincinnati, OH 45202; Bart.Cosgrove@Ohio