AKRON– The owner of a tree trimming and yard maintenance business has been sentenced to serve 18 months in jail on charges of felony theft and forgery as well as misdemeanor charges of falsification, obstruction of official business and operating without a county vendors license.
83-year-old George Homa of Sagamore Hills hired Cory Howard’s company, Alternative Property Maintenance, for a contract of $3,000 in November after a storm came through Northeast Ohio. Homa hired the company to remove a tree from his backyard.
“I was on my way back to the house when I heard this loud back cut they did to the tree with this four foot chainsaw,” Homa said.
As crews were working to take down a massive poplar tree in the backyard Homa was concerned the workers weren’t doing it correctly. The tree ended up falling the wrong way, crushing the house and Homa leaving him with a broken leg, a broken pelvis, fractured ribs, a broken shoulder and a broken spine.
After the incident, the crew vanished and the Homa family could not get a hold of anyone with the company. Officials say the crew members did not have valid identification and their truck had expired plates. The Summit County Prosecutor began looking into the situation and learned the company operated under several different names and was not insured.
Summit County Prosecutor Bevan Walsh eventually identified Howard as the owner of the company and he surrendered to authorities in February.
When FOX8 contacted Howard in November he said he worked for someone named Brian Jones.
The family says they have had to pay thousands in medical care and to work on their home after the tree damaged it.
In the sentencing Monday morning, Howard told the judge he was not there when the accident happened, never spoke to Homa, didn’t know his workers had even taken the job. He also said he was sorry that Homa was injured.
“I would have never allowed that to happen. I messed up, I got workers that I thought I could trust but I couldn’t I see now. I never told this man I had a license, I never told him I had any insurance” Howard explained to the judge Monday.
Judge Tammy O’Brien said she doesn’t believe Howard’s story.
“You are the owner and the one responsible. Frankly, we have not just Mr. Homa but an additional victim and I don’t beliee that you didn’t know what your workers were doing that day,” O’Brien said.
“Any decent human being would have been there trying to help in any way that they could following this accident if not with Mr. Homa’s injuries but with the property damages and the cleanup,” O’Brien continued.
The family told FOX8 they were satisfied with the judge’s ruling and want other families to learn from their experience.
“We’re grateful that they invested the time and the funds because this could have been a small blip on the radar and we know that we’re not the only ones that suffered a loss like this,” said Lore Creque, Homa’s daughter.
“Definitely look into the background of the company and verify that everything is what they say it is,” Creque said.