On Thursday, January 9, 2014, a Cobb County Grand Jury charged five individuals with Racketeering (O.C.G.A. § 16-14-4(c)) for their role in a home improvement scam targeting senior citizens. Helen Johnson, Larry McGill, Nicholas Mitchell, Rocky Mitchell and Gidget Williams are accused of conspiring to defraud 25 elderly victims of over $74,500 in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Walton Counties.
The indictment alleges that between July 28, 2011, and February 15, 2013, the accused, operating in crews comprised of different combinations of the named defendants as well as other unidentified individuals, sought out residences of older homeowners. Once a potential home was identified, a member of the crew would approach the homeowner and offer an exterior home cleaning service or a home improvement service such as roofing or driveway sealing. Typically the crew member would quote a price and tell the homeowner the charge was a flat rate. The homeowner would agree to the work and the price.
After work was done, the crew would tell homeowners that the quoted price was actually the amount per volume of the materials or product used and a larger quantity of materials or product had been used than expected. The homeowners were surprised to learn that the crew was charging them a much higher fee than what they had originally agreed to pay.
Many homeowners believed that they could not protest the higher amount, while some attempted to negotiate a lower payment. Feeling pressured, the homeowners would pay an amount higher than the original agreement via cash and/or writing a personal check to one of the defendants. Personal checks were then cashed by one of the defendants.
In one instance, the defendants defrauded an elderly couple of $39,280 over the course of nine different transactions by returning to their residence and continuing to create the impression that more money was needed for materials. Ultimately, the crew never did any of the work promised.
Racketeering is punishable by five to 20 years imprisonment and/or a $25,000 fine or three times the amount of any pecuniary value gained.
Assistant Attorney General Blair McGowan is prosecuting the case on behalf of the State of Georgia. The case was investigated by Danny Vogt with the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection and David Farabaugh with the Roswell Police Department.