Judge orders serial fraudulent contractor to pay steep fines, some victims still won’t see reimbursement

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 6:12 PM EDT
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EUCLID, Ohio (WOIO) - A serial fraudulent contractor has been given a new punishment.

A Cuyahoga County judge ordered Neil Wolfe to pay $625,873 in restitution to consumers and more than $1.7 million in civil penalties.

Still, some of his victims are no closer to relief.

“I’m beginning to think we may not ever, ever see any of our money,” said fraud victim Monica Rus.

It’s been a tough nine months for Monica Rus and her family.

We told you her story back in February, paying contractor Neil Wolfe four thousand dollars for a sun room, only to never hear from him again.

Turns out, court records show he’s been taking peoples money and doing shoddy work, or no work at all, for the last 20 years.

And now it’s starting to catch up to him.

He’s already in jail for grand theft, and now a judge has ordered him to pay more $600,000 back to his customers.

Finally, Rus thought she was catching a break.

“I was like yay,” said Rus. “I was excited. I was happy. I’m thinking ok, we’re going to get some of our money back.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

The money will go to 19 customers he defrauded who made checks out to Neil Wolfe himself.

In Rus’s case, he asked her to make the check out to a different company he claimed to work for.

So she’s not eligible to get a refund.

According to this email with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Rus’s only chance of getting money back is if they pursue legal action against those companies.

Frustrating news, made even worse given the fact this is a civil case, and while Wolfe is facing steep fines, this adds no time to his current three year jail sentence.

“What he has done is a criminal act,” said Rus. “I mean, if you went and robbed a bank you’d be going to jail. He’s doing the same thing except he’s not doing it in a violent way, he’s doing it in a nice way to earn our trust.”

Rus’s advice to others: don’t give your money or trust until contractors have already started the work.

Because while this thief’s locked up, there are thousands of others out there hoping to do the same thing.

“Until they’re really behind bars, they’re going to find a way.”