UPDATE (Nov. 11, 2019) — A default judgment against James Twaddle ordered him to pay $1,268,870.44, including $389,187.82 in consumer restitution, $367,523.52 in senior consumer treble damages and $511,500 in civil penalties. A similar default judgment against Wanda VanWinkle was issued in 2017.
CARMEL, Ind. (Dec. 1, 2015) – They’ll take your money, but don’t expect to get any work done.
That’s why Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Hamilton County against Green Frog Restoration, Inc., and its owners, James Twaddle and Wanda VanWinkle.
The problems became apparent in July, when the Better Business Bureau received numerous complaints about Green Frog. The Attorney General’s Office said Green Frog scammed at least 41 Indianapolis-area residents out of more than $280,000. The attorney general’s lawsuit alleges violations of Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, Home Improvement Contracts Act, Home Solicitation Sales Act and the Senior Consumer Protection Act.
According to the investigation, the defendants targeted residents in Marion County and surrounding areas in spring 2014 after severe weather swept through the area and damaged several homes. Residents handed insurance money over to Green Frog, which had gone door-to-door offering to repair the damage.
Between May 2014 and May 2015, Green Frog signed contracts with at least 41 residents whose homes sustained storm damage. Those customers paid the company between $1,000 and $20,000 for work that was never completed. More than half of the customers targeted were over the age of 60.
Zoeller said Hoosiers must be wary of “storm chasers” who aim to profit from storms and other disasters.
“This is a worst case example of a storm chaser who victimized dozens of innocent people – many of which were seniors – not only in Indiana, but in neighboring states, and my office will pursue these bad actors aggressively,” Zoeller said. “I urge people to use extreme caution when dealing with door-to-door sellers who they are not familiar with and avoid making a rush judgment, even when faced with severe home damage.”
This isn’t the first time the company’s owners have been accused of scamming homeowners. According to the investigation, Twaddle ran the same scam in Kentucky and Ohio with a business named “Restore-It.” In 2013, he was ordered to pay more than $255,000 to the state of Ohio. He faced criminal charges in Ohio and Kentucky, including theft, racketeering, money laundering and insurance fraud, all related to the home repair scheme.
Under fire in those states, Twaddle and VanWinkle escalated their operation in Indiana with Green Frog.
Twaddle was ultimately indicted, ordered to serve jail time and fined. He and VanWinkle used $150,000 in money collected from Indiana residents to pay off fines levied in the case, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
The state is seeking full restitution for all 41 customers who were scammed, in addition to enhanced restitution for the customers over the age of 60 covered under Indiana’s Senior Consumer Protection Act.
Hoosiers who believe they’ve been scammed by Green Frog and haven’t filed a complaint should go to IndianaConsumer.com or call 1-800-382-5516.