Ohio Attorney General briefs


Staff Reports



Owners of Home Healthcare Agency Found Guilty of Medicaid Fraud

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced today (March 7) that two owners of a home healthcare agency that once operated offices in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton have been found guilty of Medicaid fraud.

Following a seven-day trial, a Franklin County jury found Ethel Freeman-Nnonah, 48, of Columbus, guilty of felony counts of Medicaid fraud, theft, forgery, and tampering with evidence. Co-defendant Tinisee Harris, 45, of Reynoldsburg, was found guilty of felony counts of Medicaid fraud and tampering with evidence.

The case was investigated and prosecuted by the Health Care Fraud Section of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The investigation found that Nnonah, the director of clinical services of Prudent Healthcare Services LLC, falsified and forged medical assessments and patient plans-of-care and ordered numerous employees to do the same. This resulted in more than $101,000 in improper payments to the company from the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

Nnonah and Harris, who was an administrator for Prudent, were also found to have tampered with patient files that they had been ordered to produce to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office pursuant to a subpoena served on the Dayton office.

The pair will be sentenced by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Guy L. Reece II on April 13, 2017.

Northeast Ohio Home Improvement Contractor Accused of Failing to Deliver Promised Services

CANTON — DeWine today (March 8) announced a lawsuit against a home improvement contractor accused of failing to deliver promised services to northeast Ohio consumers.

Clinton A. Matthews, of Canton, and his business Matthews Home Services LLC are accused of violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act. In the lawsuit, Attorney General DeWine seeks reimbursement for consumers and an end to any violations of the law.

According to the lawsuit, Matthews did business as Matthews Home Services, offering home improvement services, such as basement or home office remodeling and vinyl siding installation.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received three complaints against Matthews Home Services. Estimated consumer losses total approximately $4,550. Additional complaints have been filed with the Better Business Bureau. In their complaints, consumers generally said Matthews took their money but failed to start the work as scheduled, provided multiple excuses for delays, and either never did any work or did work that was shoddy.

The lawsuit, filed in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas, accuses Matthews of failure to deliver and shoddy workmanship.

Attorney General DeWine offered consumers the following recommendations to help prevent home improvement problems:

  • Research a company before making any payments. Search for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or Better Business Bureau. 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 home improvement contractor 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. 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.

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.

Attorney General DeWine Warns of Overpayment Scams

Scams Target Businesses, Charities, and Online Sellers

DeWine recently warned Ohioans to beware of overpayment scams this holiday season. The scam commonly affects businesses, charities, and people who sell items online.

In the scam, a con artist pretends to overpay for something (often by providing a counterfeit check or fraudulent credit card) and then asks the victim to return the extra amount right away using another form of payment. While the victim’s payment is good, the con artist’s is not.

“Any time someone sends you a check and asks you to send a portion of the money back, there’s a good chance it’s a scam,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We just warn people to be careful. Con artists are very good at what they do. They can be very believable, but take a minute to think about it before sending any money.”

In one variation of the scam, a charity is contacted by someone who wants to make a donation. When the donor’s check arrives, it’s written for twice as much as the promised donation. The donor then sends an email, saying the check was a mistake, and asks the charity to return the extra amount via wire transfer. In reality, the donor’s check is invalid, and any money the charity sends will be lost.

In another variation of the scam, a business receives an email from a potential customer. The customer places an order and asks the business to charge an extra few hundred dollars to the customer’s credit card and then give the extra amount in cash to a carrier who will pick up the order. Ultimately, the customer’s credit card is invalid and the business will lose any money it gives to the carrier.

The overpayment scam also affects individuals who post items for sale online. Commonly, a con artist will pose as a seller, offer to buy an item, and send a check for more than the agreed-upon price. Then the con artist asks the seller to return the extra payment immediately (before the check has cleared).

Signs of a potential overpayment scam include:

  • Customers who send checks for more than the agreed-upon price.
  • Customers who want their credit cards to be charged extra.
  • Individuals who immediately agree to buy an item offered for sale online.
  • Requests for wire transfers, money orders, or prepaid cards (payment methods often requested by scammers).
  • Demands for immediate action.
  • Threats about what will happen if no action is taken.

To report a potential scam, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

AG DeWine Announces Charitable Law Settlement with Organization that Operated in Toledo and Columbus

DeWine today (March 7) announced a settlement with the operator of “Teens With Dreams,” an organization that operated around Toledo and Columbus and collected money through door-to-door solicitations by kids.

An investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section found that much of the money collected by Teens With Dreams went to the organization’s founder, Darnell Robinson, and that there was little evidence to suggest that any charitable programming actually occurred.

Under the settlement, Robinson agrees to dissolve Teens With Dreams and to never again incorporate or create an Ohio nonprofit organization.

Teens With Dreams’ stated purpose was “to keep teens busy and off the streets and also to do work free for seniors and help community fundraisers, etc.” but investigators found that Teens With Dreams generally operated by recruiting kids ages 11 to 16 to go door to door asking for money and providing collected funds to Robinson, while allowing the kids to keep a portion of the money.

According to the Attorney General’s investigation, Teens With Dreams did not have 501(c)(3) status with the IRS, did not properly register with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, and did not keep proper accounting of charitable funds.

The settlement (an assurance of discontinuance) was filed with the Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Questionable charitable activity should be reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-515.

DeWine Announces Consumer Protection Action Against Columbus Area Contractor

DeWine today (March 3) announced a lawsuit against a Columbus home improvement contractor accused of failing to provide promised services to consumers in central Ohio.

The lawsuit accuses Midwest Construction Services and Roofing LLC, Jason Hauser, and William Williams of violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act and Home Solicitation Sales Act. Attorney General DeWine seeks reimbursement for affected consumers and an end to any violations of the law.

“Consumers deserve to receive what they pay for. In this case, many of them did not,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We’re taking this action to seek reimbursement for harmed consumers and to protect other consumers from being harmed by these operators in the future.”

According to the lawsuit, Midwest Construction Services and Roofing LLC offers kitchen and bath remodeling, roofing, and other home improvement services to consumers. The owner is Jason Hauser. William Williams (Hauser’s father-in-law) is an employee who allegedly had significant control over the day-to-day operations of the company.

Since 2016, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received 21 complaints against Midwest Construction. In their complaints, consumers cite a variety of problems. Some said Midwest started the work but never completed it or did work that was so shoddy it had to be corrected by another contractor. Some said Midwest never started the work at all and failed to provide refunds. Disputed amounts total $150,000.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit accuses Midwest, Hauser, and Williams of failing to deliver services, performing shoddy and substandard work, failing to honor cancellation notices, and failing to provide consumers with proper notice of their cancellation rights.

Separate from this case, William Williams was convicted of theft in Licking County in 2006 related to home improvement services. He also was sued by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in 1986 and in 2002 for consumer protection violations.

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

  • Research a company carefully 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. Get the names of the business’s owners and operators. Conduct an internet search with the name of the business and its operators. Check court records, which often are available online. Even if you find no information about a company, be skeptical. 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.

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.

Ohio Woman Indicted for Scamming Multiple People, Including Elderly Individuals

WOODSFIELD, Ohio — DeWine and Monroe County Prosecutor James L. Peters recently announced that a Monroe County woman has been indicted for allegedly stealing over $700,000 from elderly people and other individuals in eastern Ohio and West Virginia.

Darlene Baldwin, 66, of Clarington, was indicted by a Monroe County grand jury on seven total counts, including theft from the elderly (a first degree felony), aggravated theft by deception (a third degree felony), attempted theft from the elderly (a fifth degree felony), two counts of telecommunications fraud (second degree felonies), and two counts of money laundering (third degree felonies).

According to investigators, Baldwin lied to people about needing money for various reasons, such as claiming she had a serious illness or that she was at risk of losing her home. She generally promised to pay people back promptly, but investigators determined that instead of paying people back, she wired the funds to other people, knowing the money would end up overseas with a man she had been communicating with online. Approximate losses among about 10 victims total $730,000.

An attorney from the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Unit was appointed to handle the case as a special prosecutor by the Monroe County Prosecutor.

The case was investigated by the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Unit and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office (in West Virginia) and the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

DeWine Seeks Consumer Restitution from Roofer Accused of Failing to Deliver Services

DeWine recently announced a lawsuit against a Columbus roofer accused of failing to provide promised services to consumers.

The lawsuit seeks consumer restitution from Diamond Set Roofing & Restoration LLC and the business’s owner, Diamond Murphy, of Columbus. It also seeks an end to any violations of Ohio’s consumer protection laws by the company.

According to the lawsuit, Murphy and her company offered home improvement services and solicited consumers at their homes. After consumers paid, the company allegedly failed to deliver the promised services or provided shoddy work. The company also allegedly failed to properly notify consumers about their cancellation rights.

Estimated consumer damages currently total about $16,000, based on three consumer complaints filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or the Better Business Bureau.

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 or Better Business Bureau. 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. 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.

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

DeWine Announces Settlement to Recover Misused Charitable Funds

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently announced a settlement with a former clergyman who previously lived in Steubenville and who was accused of creating and using a charity primarily to pay for personal expenses.

Under the settlement, John Sillup, of Sherman Oaks, California, agreed to dissolve his organization, the Society of Notre Dame, to pay $26,519 in restitution, and to pay a $10,000 civil fine. He also agreed not to work for or solicit for charities in Ohio and to shut down websites and social media accounts related to the organization.

Sillup claimed that the Society of Notre Dame (previously known as the Society of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament) was an international organization that helped child refugees, but investigators found no evidence of any programming to support child refugees and determined that Sillup used charitable assets primarily to pay for personal expenses, such as credit card bills, restaurant meals, clothing, a Lexus, and entertainment.

Sillup was incardinated in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Frejus-Toulon, France, and lived in Steubenville, Ohio, before his clerical status was withdrawn by the Catholic Church, according to an investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section.

While in Steubenville, Sillup collected charitable contributions but allegedly used the contributions to pay for living expenses. He also sold property belonging to the Society of Notre Dame and used the funds to pay for personal expenses. After moving to California, he promoted a fundraising event to benefit child refugees, but investigators determined that the event never took place.

The Attorney General filed a lawsuit accusing Sillup of multiple violations of Ohio’s charitable laws. The settlement, which resolves the lawsuit, calls for the $26,519 in restitution to be redistributed for the charitable purpose of helping child refugees.

Suspected charitable fraud should be reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.

Ohio Man Charged with Grand Theft,

Unlawful Securities Practices

NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio — DeWine and the Ohio Department of Commerce – Division of Securities announced recently that a New Philadelphia man has been indicted on 31 felony charges related to the fraudulent sale of securities in Tuscarawas County.

Keith Elsesser, 50, is charged with 29 counts of unlawful securities practices and two counts of grand theft.

Prosecutors with Attorney General DeWine’s Special Prosecutions Section presented the case to a Tuscarawas County grand jury last week.

An investigation by the Ohio Department of Commerce – Division of Securities found that Elsesser allegedly sold phony securities to two local investors between 2011 and 2013. Elsesser is accused of leading the victims to believe that they were investing in an energy drink venture, but he allegedly spent the victims’ investments on himself.

“This investigation found that the defendant allegedly convinced the victims into believing that they would make quite a return on their investments, when in fact, he never intended to return a dime,” said Attorney General DeWine.

The loss to both victims is a total of approximately $90,000.

Elsesser was previously convicted on federal charges in North Carolina in connection with a similar scheme.

The case was investigated with the assistance of the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the New Philadelphia Police Department, and the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office.

Ohio Woman Sentenced to Jail for

Falsifying Voter Registrations

LISBON, Ohio — DeWine and Columbiana County Prosecutor Robert Herron announced today (March 6) that an Ohio woman has been sentenced to jail for fraudulently registering more than three dozen people to vote.

Columbiana County Common Pleas Judge C. Ashley Pike sentenced Rebecca Hammonds, 34, to 180 days in jail.

Hammonds, of East Liverpool, pleaded guilty last month to 13 felony counts of making a false registration and one felony count of election falsification.

The East Liverpool woman was indicted in May after an investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation found that Hammonds had created false voter registration documents while working to register unregistered voters in Columbiana County between September and October of 2015.

“The investigation found that the defendant falsely registered a number of Columbiana County residents, including some who were deceased, which is inexcusable,” said Ohio Attorney General DeWine. “Allegations of voter fraud referred to my office will always be thoroughly investigated.”

The case was prosecuted by the Columbiana County Prosecutor’s Office with assistance from the Ohio Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section.

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Staff Reports

Individuals who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

Individuals who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.