INDIANAPOLIS – December 03, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a lawsuit today against serial home repair fraudsters who allegedly scammed at least 41 Indianapolis-area residents out of more than $280,000 after conducting similar schemes against Ohio and Kentucky residents.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit against Green Frog Restoration, Inc. and its owners, James Twaddle and Wanda VanWinkle, was filed in Hamilton County court today, and alleges violations of Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, Home Improvement Contracts Act, Home Solicitation Sales Act and the Senior Consumer Protection Act.
The Attorney General’s Office launched its investigation of Green Frog, located in Carmel, after complaints began flooding in this summer from Green Frog customers who paid for home repair services that were never completed. The AG’s Office received 41 complaints against the company this summer.
According to the Attorney General’s investigation, the defendants targeted residents in Marion County and surrounding counties beginning in the spring of 2014 and then again the following spring after seasonal storms damaged area homes. The defendants went door-to-door to homes that had incurred damages from storms, typically to the roofs or siding, and offered repair services.
From May 2014 to May 2015, Green Frog Restoration entered into home repair contracts with at least 41 area residents who had sustained storm damage. The residents obtained insurance money for the damage from their insurance companies and then transferred the money to Green Frog, in amounts ranging from $1,000 to almost $20,000.
In total, Green Frog fraudulently collected $281,656 from the 41 customers mentioned in the Attorney General’s complaint. The defendants never made the repairs, leaving customers out their insurance money that was allotted to repair storm damage. More than half of the customers were over the age of 60.
“We often warn Hoosiers about ‘storm chasers’ who aim to rip off homeowners when they are in urgent need of repair services and may be most vulnerable,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said. “This is a worst case example of a storm chaser who victimized dozens of innocent people – many of which were seniors – not only in Indiana, but in neighboring states, and my office will pursue these bad actors aggressively. I urge people to use extreme caution when dealing with door-to-door sellers who they are not familiar with and avoid making a rush judgment, even when faced with severe home damage.”
A history of scamming
The Attorney General’s investigation uncovered that James Twaddle had similarly scammed numerous Ohio and Kentucky consumers in 2012 under the business name “Restore-It.”
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit in 2013 against Twaddle that resulted in a default judgment, in which Twaddle was ordered to pay more than $255,000 to the state. In addition to this judgement, Twaddle faced criminal charges from both Ohio and Kentucky for theft, racketeering, money laundering and insurance fraud related to his home repair scheme.
While these charges were pending, Twaddle and VanWinkle ramped up Green Frog’s operations in Indiana to scam innocent Hoosiers.
Twaddle was ultimately indicted in Ohio and Kentucky, and ordered jail time in addition to extensive fines. VanWinkle and Twaddle used $150,000 of the money collected from Indiana residents for home repair work that was never completed to pay off some of these fines.
In its lawsuit, the Attorney General’s Office is seeking full restitution for the 41 impacted customers, in addition to enhanced restitution for the customers who were over the age of 60 and covered under Indiana’s Senior Consumer Protection Act.
Twaddle is currently in jail in Ohio.
Hoosiers who believe they were scammed by Green Frog and have not yet filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office can do so online at www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 800-382-5516.
Zoeller thanked Deputy Attorneys General Mark Snodgrass and Steven Frank for their work on this case.
Tips to avoid home repair scams
Home repair scams are a common complaint reported to the Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s Office encourages people to follow the below tips to avoid getting scammed by a home improvement company:
Get multiple price quotes from different contractors.
Check with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General’s Office to see if complaints have been filed against the contractor.
Check to make sure the contractor is locally licensed, bonded and insured. A performance bond provides the most direct protection for the consumer. Bonds that cover municipal code compliance may be helpful but would not offer direct monetary recovery for an aggrieved consumer.
Opt for the local, well-established contractor rather than the door-to-door ‘storm chaser.’
Get a contract in writing that details what work is to be done and when it will be finished.
If the contractor came to your door unsolicited, ensure you receive a notice from the contractor of your ability to cancel the contract within three days for a full refund before signing any contract.
Never pay for the entire project before the work begins. Do not pay more than a third of the total cost as a down payment.
For more tips, click here.
Consumer complaints can be filed with the Attorney General’s Office at www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 1-800-382-5516.
Name: Molly Gillaspie