SAGAMORE HILLS, Ohio - Following a November storm that left fallen trees and debris across Northeast Ohio, George Homa, 82, and his wife say they hired a company that was already doing work in their neighborhood to remove a tree on their property.
The couple signed a $3,000 contract and say the representative of Alternative Property Maintenance said they were experienced and insured.
But as the crews worked to remove a large Poplar tree in his backyard, George says he was concerned that they did not know what they were doing.
"So they refused to make any changes as to where they were pulling it, where it would fall or how they would cut it," said Homa.
The massive tree fell on Homa's house crushing him underneath it, leaving him with a broken leg, a broken pelvis, fractured ribs, a broken shoulder and a broken spine.
The family says the company left what they were doing and vanished.
Sagamore Hills police reports say the crew members did not have valid identification and their truck had expired plates.
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh says the claim they had insurance was also false.
Bevan Walsh says finding the owner of the company was also difficult because he used different names for himself and for his business.
"We have learned that they operated under multiple different names. There are several other different names they have business cards for with various different names on there," said Bevan Walsh.
The prosecutor's office has now identified Cory Howard, 27, of Springfield, Ohio, near Dayton, as the owner of the company.
FOX 8 News contacted him in November when he said he actually worked for someone named Brian Jones.
Howard has now been indicted in Summit County on charges that include felony theft and forgery, as well as misdemeanor charges of falsification, obstruction of official business and operating without a county vendors license.
George Homa is currently in a rehabilitation center where, more than two months after the incident, he says he is still only about halfway through his recovery.
His family says they will have to pay thousands out of pocket for his care in addition to what damage there has been at their home.
Howard surrendered to Summit County authorities Thursday afternoon.
In the meantime, the prosecutor's office is offering homeowners the following advice to try and prevent con artists from taking advantage of people who are looking for contractors to do work on their property:
· Research a home improvement contractor before signing any contract. Obtain the name, address, and phone number of any contractor agreeing to do work for you. Ask for identification from the company's representative. Request and contact references. Check for consumer complaints with the Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau before allowing a contractor to begin the work.
· Be cautious. Do not accept services from a contractor who refuses to provide proper identification, does not have a permanent place of business, cannot provide references, or insists on a large upfront payment, such as half or more of the total cost.
· Get written estimates from at least three different contractors. Refuse to do business with a company that does not provide a written estimate.
* Keep in mind that you generally have three business days to cancel door-to-door sales. A business must notify you of this right and cannot begin services until after the three-day period has ended.
· Don't sign over your insurance check to a contractor. If you are financing the transaction, arrange for a certificate of completion with your bank. The bank will pay the contractor for each completed stage of the job only after you give your permission.
· Get a sworn statement. Insist that the contractor provide you with a sworn statement that all materials have been paid for and all subcontractors have been paid. This will help protect you from liens that may be placed on your property if the contractor fails to pay all suppliers and subcontractors. web -