Neil Wolfe, a longtime home-improvement contractor who deceived dozens of his customers and then repeatedly flouted a judge’s injunction, has been held in civil contempt and ordered to stop operating his business immediately, according to a press release by Attorney General Dave Yost’s office.
In addition, Wolfe and his Hudson-based Neil Construction Company Inc. must turn over their assets for liquidation and eventual distribution to aggrieved consumers, the press release notes. Wolfe is the only individual associated with Neil Construction.
The case originated in February 2021 when Yost’s office filed a complaint in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court against Wolfe and his company alleging multiple violations of Ohio’s consumer protection laws.
An investigation by Yost’s Consumer Protection Section found that Wolfe and Neil Construction would request down payments, then either perform no work, shoddy work, or incomplete work on consumers’ home-improvement projects. The investigation, according to the press release, also found that Wolfe failed to obtain permits, failed to register as a contractor, wrote unfair and one-sided contracts and stalled and evaded other legal obligations.
In October 2021, Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Russo issued a preliminary injunction against Wolfe and his company and appointed a receiver to take charge of operations, at the request of the attorney general’s office. The judge told Wolfe that if he continued to work, he was to do so only in accordance with the CSPA and with the approval of the receiver. However, Wolfe disregarded the order and instead began a substantial construction project in January 2022 for a Summit County couple without first obtaining the required permits, according to the attorney general’s office. In a series of recorded conversations made by the Summit couple, Wolfe made a number of misrepresentations to them. Alarmed, the couple contacted the attorney general’s office, which resulted in the filing of a motion for contempt in February.
“Some people just don’t get it – he was already under injunction to stop this and just kept going,” Attorney General Yost said in a statement. “Now he’s in contempt of court, and we’re taking away his company and its assets.”
At a hearing in March, testimony and evidence, including the recorded consumer conversations cited in the press release, established that Wolfe was violating Ohio’s consumer protection laws in a number of ways.
Judge Russo outlined several conditions that Wolfe must meet to avoid a fine and jail time, including doing the following by April 21, according to the press release. These conditions include:
- Ceasing all operations immediately
- Returning $69,000 to the Summit County couple
- Turning over to the receiver any outstanding cash and other assets held by Wolfe or his company
- Providing the receiver with information on all bank accounts, bonding, insurance, and titles to any personal property
The receiver will liquidate the assets and set up a claims process for Wolfe’s customers, the attorney general’s office notes.
Judge Russo said the next act of contempt would be a criminal offense resulting in a larger fine and more jail time.
Attorney General Yost urges Ohioans victimized by Wolfe or another unfair or deceptive business practice to contact the Ohio Attorney General’s office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.
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Kaitlin Housler is a reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network.
Photo “Dave Yost” by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.