MARYSVILLE — A central Ohio man will spend nearly five years in prison for scamming to repeatedly steal money form area homeowners.
James Twaddle, 41, of 8241 Olympus Lane, Blacklick, was sentenced Tuesday, to 59 months in prison. In December he pleaded guilty to one count each of attempted engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft from an elderly person or disabled adult and grand theft.
As part of the plea agreement, Twaddle was ordered to pay full restitution of $153,127.82, which has been deposited with the Union County Clerk of Courts and will be distributed to victims.
“As a result of this case, victims will receive restitution, and the man who stole thousands from them will serve prison time,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wrote in a statement.
In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to reduce some of the charges and drop others. He was originally charged in November 2013 with one count each of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, grand theft, theft from the elderly, money laundering and insurance fraud.
DeWine said Twaddle ran “an elaborate home improvement scheme.” Many of the victims were elderly.
After a storm, Twaddle would identify homes with damage using what prosecutors called “pretty sophisticated software.”
Operating under a roofing repair company named Restore It USA, Twaddle would approach the owners of the damaged homes, have them file an insurance claim, then pay him to repair the damage.
Twaddle would deposit the money into the company’s bank account, but never perform the work that had been promised.
Court documents also say Twaddle used the victims’ money to make purchases, including a $17,000 engagement ring, expensive clothing, outdoor sporting gear and other items.
Union County Prosecutor David Phillips became aware of Twaddle’s activities after he spoke to a local group of senior citizens about fraud and scams.
“The next day, I received a phone call from a Marysville resident who believed she had been victimized by Mr. Twaddle,” Phillips said in a release. “After she called, I asked Marysville Police to investigate her complaint.”
When police finished their investigation, prosecutors learned how widespread the activity was.
According to court documents, between March and November 2012, Twaddle used the scheme to steal more than $160,000 from 42 victims in Union, Franklin, Coshocton, Hamilton, Licking, Montgomery, Pickaway and Ross counties.
Through the course of the investigation, investigators learned that Twaddle operated in at least four other states, including Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and North Carolina. He has a criminal history in at least Kentucky and Ohio.
Twaddle’s guilty plea covered only those transactions that took place in Ohio.
“In these types of cases there are generally many victims,” Phillips said, “So I checked Attorney General DeWine’s website for other consumer complaints and found many. The next day, I was in touch with Attorney General DeWine’s investigators and we began a joint investigation into Mr. Twaddle’s widespread fraud.”
At the time of the indictment, Restore It USA had not completed any of the work for the 43 listed victims. Phillips said there were other consumer complaints about the company, but in those complaints at least some work was done.
Twaddle argued that he sold the company and the new owners were obligated to assume the work and debt he has undertaken. Written statements and voice mail recordings from the victims helped secure the guilty plea agreement.
“We believe this is a just result,” DeWine wrote about the four-year, 11-month sentence. “It’s also an example of what can happen when state and local agencies collaborate to hold scam artists accountable.”
Consumers who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or by calling 800-282-0515.