Ohio Attorney General briefs


Staff Reports



DeWine Seeks Consumer Restitution from Pest Control Operator

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a lawsuit against an Ohio man for failing to deliver promised animal removal and pest control services to consumers in central Ohio.

Daniel Pavlov, doing business as A Wildlife Wrangler, is accused of violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act and Home Solicitation Sales Act. In the lawsuit, Attorney General DeWine seeks reimbursement for affected consumers and an end to any violations of the law.

According to the lawsuit, Pavlov offered animal removal and pest control services under the name A Wildlife Wrangler. He accepted payment from consumers, but on multiple occasions, he allegedly failed to complete the promised services, failed to provide refunds, and failed to provide consumers with proper notice of their cancellation rights.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is aware of five unresolved consumer complaints against A Wildlife Wrangler. Consumers generally said they paid an average of about $2,000 to the company but that after Pavlov did minimal initial work, such as setting up a trap, he failed to return and failed to respond to their calls.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit, filed in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, accuses Pavlov of failing to deliver; performing shoddy, incomplete, or substandard work; failing to register his business name with the Ohio Secretary of State; and failing to provide notice of consumers’ cancellation rights under the Home Solicitation Sales Act.

Following Severe Weather, DeWine Warns of Storm-Chaser Scams

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned consumers to beware of home repair scams following severe weather that hits Ohio.

“If you have downed trees, a damaged roof, or other storm damage, be wary of people who unexpectedly show up at your door offering services,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Some con artists travel to storm-damaged areas to rip off homeowners. They promise to do the work immediately and ask for payment up front, but they leave without finishing the job. We encourage people to be careful and to research contractors before making payments.”

Attorney General DeWine’s office has pursued dozens of enforcement actions against home improvement contractors who failed to deliver promised services to consumers. In some cases, the contractors targeted consumers in storm-damaged areas, accepted large down payments (sometimes the consumer’s insurance check), and left before completing the work.

Before entering into a contract with any home improvement business, consumers should take steps to protect themselves, such as:

Research the business. Obtain the name, address, and phone number of any contractor offering to do work for you. Check for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. Conduct an internet search of the business’s name and words like “complaints,” “reviews,” or “scam.” Contact other customers to ask about their experiences with the contractor. If possible, get recommendations from neighbors, friends, or family. Don’t accept services from a contractor who refuses to provide proper identification.

Get multiple estimates. Consider getting estimates from at least three different contractors. Be wary if one contractor quotes a price that is dramatically lower than the prices other businesses are offering. The contractor later may demand more money or fail to complete the work as promised.

Don’t make large payments in advance. Be wary of contractors who demand large upfront payments, such as half or more of the total cost. Also be wary of contractors who ask you to sign over your insurance check. Try to pay in increments, as the work is completed to your satisfaction.

Get a detailed written contract. Insist on a written contract detailing the costs, the work to be done, the starting and end dates, and any verbal promises made by the contractor.

Understand your cancellation rights. If the contract resulted from a door-to-door sale, you generally have three days to cancel the contract, according to Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. The seller should give you written notice of these rights.

Consider paying with a credit card. Paying with a credit card generally gives you greater protections to dispute unauthorized charges, especially compared to paying in cash.

Extension of Naloxone Rebate Agreement

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced March 2 that a rebate agreement that has saved Ohio agencies nearly $400,000 on the cost of naloxone since 2015 has been extended for one year.

The renewed agreement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc. will continue to allow non-federal public entities in Ohio to receive a $6 rebate for each Amphastar naloxone syringe purchased until March 2, 2018.

“There is no doubt that the number of overdose deaths in Ohio would be significantly higher if not for the first responders who carry this life-saving drug,” said Attorney General DeWine. “This rebate has already saved hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I’m pleased that this rebate will continue for another year.”

So far, 101 agencies have been reimbursed a total of $391,672 for naloxone purchases made between March 2, 2015 and September 30, 2016. Another $77,424 in rebates are currently pending for the fourth quarter of 2016.

A full list of agencies that have received naloxone rebates can be found on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

When given to a person overdosing on heroin or a prescription opioid, naloxone can limit or stop the overdose by reversing the effects of the opioid on the brain.

Attorney General DeWine approached Amphastar in February 2015 following a dramatic increase in their cost for naloxone. The rebate agreement then went into effect in March 2015 and was renewed for one year in March 2016.

If Amphastar raises its wholesale price of naloxone during the term of the agreement, the company will also increase the rebate amount.

Non-federal, Ohio government agencies are eligible to receive rebate payments. This includes, but is not limited to, state agencies, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, emergency medical services, county health departments, Project DAWN community programs, and county or local government agencies.

For information on how to apply for the rebates visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/NaloxoneRebate.

Ohio Man Indicted on 34 Charges Related to Alleged Sexual Assault of Juvenile

LONDON, Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Madison County Sheriff James Sabin announced today (Feb. 10) the arrest of a Madison County man accused of sexually assaulting a child over a period of several years.

Gary Zornes, 52, of Plain City, was arrested this afternoon after an investigation by the Madison County Sheriff’s Office uncovered the alleged assaults.

Prosecutors with Attorney General DeWine’s Special Prosecutions Section presented the case to a Madison County grand jury this week. Zornes was indicted on six counts of rape, 22 counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of sexual battery, two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and one count of kidnapping.

A number of the charges include a sexually violent predator specification.

The indictment alleges that Zornes compelled the victim to submit by force or threat of force on multiple occasions between 2008 and 2015. The first assault allegedly occurred when the victim was approximately 11 years old.

“The investigation found that the innocent victim was allegedly attacked by this defendant over and over, year after year,” said Attorney General DeWine. “My office is committed to protecting children in this state and holding predators accountable.”

The case is being prosecuted as part of Attorney General DeWine’s Crimes Against Children Initiative.

Anyone with additional information should contact the Madison County Sheriff’s Office at 740-852-1332.

Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education Issues Recommendations

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, House Speaker Clifford Rosenberger (R-Clarksville), and Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) today (Feb. 10) released the Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education’s list of recommendations on options for implementing age-appropriate substance abuse education in schools across all grade levels.

Attorney General DeWine, Speaker Rosenberger, and former Senate President Keith Faber created the study committee in August.

“At least eight people are dying each day in Ohio from accidental drug overdoses. This is happening in our cities, suburbs, and small towns, and no community is immune,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “We must educate all of Ohio’s kids early-on and keep repeating the message about the dangers of drug addiction. This report will serve as a road map to help implement comprehensive substance abuse prevention programs.”

The study committee concluded that Ohio schools should provide consistent, age-appropriate, evidence-based substance abuse education for all students in Kindergarten through 12th grade. Although there is no one-size-fits-all curriculum for Ohio schools, the committee offered a number of examples of curriculum that could be used to meet this recommendation.

Because there is no baseline for determining how schools are currently implementing substance abuse education in Ohio, the group also recommended that Ohio adopt a reporting system that requires schools to publicly report how they are fulfilling their requirements to provide substance abuse education.

The committee also recognized the importance of social and emotional education. This instruction teaches good decision-making skills, builds self-esteem, and encourages positive interactions with others, which in turn, could help students resist alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Social and emotional education is currently only provided in schools through the third grade, but the committee recommends these skills be taught across all grade levels.

“I want to commend the members on this joint committee for their thorough and informative work,” Speaker Rosenberger said. “Their collaborative and organized process has brought forward a series of recommendations that can truly make a difference in the lives of Ohio’s students. As we continue to find ways to curtail opioid abuse in the state, there is nothing more important than ensuring that our children are aware of the dangers of drug addiction and how it can ruin their futures and rob them of a healthy, successful life. I want to also thank Representatives Robert Sprague, Terry Johnson, and Heather Bishoff for their work on the committee and to all the members for their efforts in keeping Ohio’s kids drug free.”

“We know that early education is key to keeping our children from trying drugs, and we must be consistent and unified in our message that substance abuse can devastate their lives and their futures,” said Senate President Obhof. “I appreciate all the work by this committee to ensure this message is loud and strong in every community in Ohio.”

The group also recommended that before and after school programs coordinate with schools to reinforce drug-free messages and that schools and communities incorporate ongoing assessments to evaluate current trends and the effectiveness of preventative strategies.

The group recommended that law enforcement continue its presence in schools in an effort to advocate for drug-free lifestyles and that law enforcement and other officials work with parent/teacher organizations to ensure that caregivers understand the importance of substance abuse prevention education also being taught at home.

In total, the Ohio Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education issued 15 recommendations. The complete report is available on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

Copies of the report will be provided to schools and communities across the state, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and members of the Ohio General Assembly.

Petition for Constitutional Amendment on Crime Victims Bill of Rights Certified

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office today (Feb. 2) certified the petition for a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would add the Ohio Crime Victims Bill of Rights.

On January 24, 2017, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received a written petition to amend the Ohio Constitution to add the Ohio Crime Victims Bill of Rights by a group called Marsy’s Law for Ohio, LLC. The petition was certified today as containing both the necessary 1,000 valid signatures from registered Ohio voters and a “fair and truthful” summary of the proposed amendment.

“Without passing upon the advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure to be referred, but pursuant to the duties imposed upon the Attorney General’s Office […] I hereby certify that the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed law,” Attorney General DeWine stated in the certification letter.

Once the summary language and initial signatures are certified, the Ohio Ballot Board must determine if the amendment contains a single issue or multiple issues. The petitioners must then collect signatures for each issue from registered voters in each of 44 or Ohio’s 88 counties equal to 5 percent of the total vote cast in the county for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election. Total signatures collected statewide must also equal 10 percent of the total vote cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election.

The full text of today’s letter and the amendment petition can be found at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/Petitions.

DeWine Seeks Action to Protect Ohio, U.S. Jobs from Crippling Regulation

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today (Feb. 3) sent a letter to the Vice President, Senate Majority Leader, and Speaker of the House asking them to take all available measures to prevent a federal rulemaking from crippling the U.S. manganese ferroalloys industry. Ohio has one of the two remaining U.S. producers of manganese ferroalloys, which are used in the production of steel.

Eramet Marietta Inc., located in Marietta, and Felman Production LLC, located in Letart, West Virginia are the country’s only two remaining producers of manganese ferroalloys. The companies face stiff competition from foreign producers.

On Jan. 18, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a final rule on the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Ferroalloys Production. The rule imposes heavy compliance requirements on Eramet and Felman. Eramet predicts it will have to eliminate about 90 jobs due to the rulemaking.

In his letter, Attorney General DeWine writes: “Eramet will need to reduce its production and staff by half to comply with the overburdening rulemaking. We ask for your assistance to avoid these losses.”

He adds, “We should not accept the conclusion that protecting the public health on the one hand and ferroalloy jobs on the other are mutually exclusive.”

The letter explains that while Eramet is committed to reconstructing the largest unit of its operation for the sake of environmental compliance, it does not have the resources to update the remaining operational units and predicts the rulemaking would eliminate half of its production. The letter also explains that the impact of such a loss would extend beyond Eramet to major U.S. steel companies, including U.S. Steel, AK Steel, TimkenSteel, and ArcelorMittal.

“American steel is vital to our national security, and many of these companies have ties to Ohio and our local economy,” DeWine writes. “Without Eramet’s supply, these steel companies will encounter unpredictable costs and their own production risks. Simply put, the harms introduced by this rulemaking are severe and far-reaching.”

A copy of Attorney General DeWine’s letter is available on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

DeWine Seeks Consumer Restitution from Home Contractor Accused of Failing to Deliver

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today (Feb. 6) announced a consumer protection lawsuit against a Jeffersonville man accused of failing to deliver promised home improvement services to consumers in Fayette County and Clinton County.

James M. Day, doing business as M&D Construction and as M&D Improvements, is accused of violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act and Home Solicitation Sales Act. In the lawsuit, filed in the Fayette County Common Pleas Court, Attorney General DeWine seeks reimbursement for affected consumers and an end to any violations of the law.

According to the lawsuit, Day offered home improvement work, including remodeling and demolition services, but then provided shoddy work, failed to complete jobs, and failed to provide refunds to consumers. He also is accused of failing to properly notify consumers of their cancellation rights and failing to register his business name with the Ohio Secretary of State.

Since 2015, five consumers have filed complaints against M&D Construction with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or Better Business Bureau. Estimated damages currently total more than $23,000.

To help consumers avoid home improvement problems, Attorney General DeWine offered the following recommendations:

Research a company before making any payments. Search for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau. Check to see if the business is registered with the Ohio Secretary of State. Also conduct an internet search with the name of the business and words like “reviews” or “complaints.” Be skeptical if you find no information. Some operators change business names regularly to make it harder for consumers to detect their record of shoddy work.

Get multiple estimates. For a large job, consider contacting at least three different businesses before making a final selection. Keep in mind that the company that gives you the lowest estimate may not necessarily deliver the best results.

Check your cancellation rights. If a seller does not have a fixed place of business or comes to your door to offer services, you may be entitled to a three-day right to cancel the contract under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. Make sure you receive detailed written information about your cancellation rights.

Make sure verbal promises are put in writing. Get a detailed written contract including any verbal claims the contractor makes and other important details, such as the estimated cost of the work, the expected start and end dates, and the names of the individuals who will perform the services.

Be wary of requests for large down payments or cash payments. It’s reasonable for a contractor to require a down payment, but be skeptical if you’re asked to make a large down payment (such as half or more of the total cost) before any work begins. If possible, pay in increments as the work is completed. Also be wary if you’re asked to pay in cash, which will be difficult to recover if something goes wrong.

First-Ever Familial DNA Search in Ohio Leads to Arrest of Man Accused of Attacking Kids

CLEVELAND — Attorney General Mike DeWine joined authorities with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, Cleveland Police Department, Elyria Police Department, and Federal Bureau of Investigation to announce the arrest of a man believed to be a serial predator of children in Northeast Ohio.

Justin Christian, 29, was arrested in Lorain in connection with the abduction and sexual assault of a 6-year-old Cleveland girl in May. Law enforcement officials say Christian is also connected to an attempted abduction of a 10-year-old Elyria girl in February.

This case involves a new tool – a familial DNA search – at the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).

“When I learned that a predator was breaking into homes to snatch children from their beds, I wanted to immediately launch this new testing in Ohio, which we had been studying and validating for some time,” said Attorney General DeWine. “This is a first for BCI and a first for Ohio.”

A familial DNA search aims to identify someone with a genetic near-match to the person who actually committed a crime, whether that’s a brother, father, or son.

Attorney General DeWine authorized BCI to start researching familial DNA searches in 2012. Software was purchased and validated. Then BCI developed a 12-page protocol, which outlines the cases that can be considered for familial DNA searches. The very time-consuming process will be limited to the most serious unsolved crimes or serial cases with a public safety component and cases in which all other leads have been exhausted.

“We had a child rapist who would break into homes to steal children. When all leads were exhausted, I called Mike DeWine,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy J. McGinty. “Familial DNA will only be used in the most serious crimes. Without it, this case would not be solved.”

If BCI can identify a potential familial DNA match, then BCI criminal analysts help authorities identify the person who might have committed the crime. That information is then shared with detectives on the case, who will do additional work before determining if they can make an arrest.

Familial DNA searches are done in 10 other states: California, Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

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Staff Reports

Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.