Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Union County Prosecuting Attorney David Phillips announced today the indictment of suspected storm chaser James Twaddle of Reynoldsburg.
The indictment alleges that from March to November 2012, Twaddle stole more than $160,000 from 42 victims across Ohio through his roofing repair company, Restore It USA.
“Following the damaging storms that hit the Midwest this weekend, we want to remind Ohioans to be wary of individuals like Mr. Twaddle who target affected homeowners,” DeWine said. “Preying upon victims after their homes have been ravaged by storms is despicable, and we want to make sure that criminals who steal from unsuspecting storm victims are punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Nine of the victims were elderly, including two of the victims in Union County,” said David Phillips, Union County Prosecuting Attorney. “When we learned of the Attorney General’s investigation, we were pleased to coordinate our investigation with the statewide investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Office and lead the prosecution to get justice for all of Ohio’s victims.”
The indictment alleges that, while operating Restore It USA, Twaddle and his employees traveled across Union, Franklin, Coshocton, Hamilton, Licking, Montgomery, Pickaway, and Ross Counties and solicited consumers in storm-ravaged areas.
Twaddle and his agents approached victims at their homes and encouraged them to request insurance funds for a new roof. After receiving the victims’ insurance checks, Twaddle deposited the money into the company’s bank account, but no one ever returned to the victims’ homes to perform the work that had been promised.
The indictment also alleges that Twaddle used victims’ money to make frivolous purchases including expensive clothing, outdoor sporting gear, and a $17,000 engagement ring. To this day, Twaddle has not delivered the materials, provided refunds to the victims, or started any of the roofing repair work in the 42 instances that the indictment covers.
Twaddle was charged in the Union County Court of Common Pleas with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, grand theft, theft from the elderly, money laundering, and insurance fraud. If convicted, Twaddle faces a prison sentence of up to 21 and a half years.
Through the course of the investigation, investigators learned that Twaddle operated in at least four other states, including Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and North Carolina. However, the Union County indictment covers only those transactions that took place in Ohio.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section filed a civil lawsuit against Twaddle and his company Restore It USA on May 8, 2013 for violations of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act and the Home Solicitations Sales Act. The complaint seeks full consumer restitution and civil penalties.
The Economic Crimes Unit, a division of the Consumer Protection Section, was created by Attorney General DeWine in March 2011 with the purpose of identifying criminal conduct in consumer fraud cases and assisting Ohio’s prosecuting attorneys in holding scammers criminally accountable. To date, 79 people have been charged with felonies as a result of the unit’s investigations.
Attorney General DeWine cautions Ohioans to be wary of fly-by-night contractors who travel to storm-ravaged areas. Before entering into a contract with any home improvement business, consumers should do background research on company’s reputation, including checking the Attorney General’s website for consumer complaints at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or by calling 800-282-0515.