CINCINNATI – Alicia Unger watched an I-Team investigation about a paver sentenced for stealing from an elderly woman and said she recognized a name.
She showed the story to her grandmother, Arrlee Barber, and that’s when it hit the 87-year-old.
Barber said the same man, James Boswell, did the same thing to her family, too.
Unger said Boswell and another man showed up at Barber’s Miami Township house, did work without permission and then forced the grandmother to pay thousands of dollars for it.
"It ruined the steps," she said. "It's ruined some of the sidewalk. The door is damaged."
Boswell has faced cases in at least five states since the early 1980s and served light sentences in Ohio and Kentucky. Last November, he pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge for stealing thousands of dollars from a 97-year-old Butler County woman. He was able to work his scheme again because sentencing laws favor contractors who know how to work the system, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said.
"Part of the problem today is judges are constrained and prosecutors are constrained with fifth-degree felonies, with fourth-degree felonies, that the law does not prefer them to go to prison," DeWine said.
Also, it's not always clear whether an issue with a contractor's work is a civil or criminal case, said Miami Township Detective Matt Davila.
"These cases are, in my opinion, some of the worst crimes that don't involve physical harm to a person," Davila said.
Davila, along with officials from a dozen other law enforcement agencies, met with DeWine's office in February because they said they’re so concerned about Boswell. Now, authorities believe there might be other family members involved, Davila said.
Barber said she was frightened of him.
A Clermont County grand jury indicted Boswell and his son, Edward, last month on two counts of felony theft in Barber's case. Boswell is facing charges in Warren County for petty theft and burglary in a similar case against an elderly victim.
Boswell also pleaded guilty to theft charges in Hamilton County in March. The judge sentenced him to six months in prison. That conviction triggered a probation violation in Butler County, where he now faces even more time behind bars.
"This guy's a menace to the community," DeWine said.
Boswell's attorney, John H. Flessa, said he couldn't comment on the allegations in the Warren and Clermont cases.
The law says DeWine cannot combine all of the cases against Boswell and prosecute him on his own.
“Where I have jurisdiction is in the civil area,” DeWine said. “We enforce what’s called the Ohio Consumer Sales Practice Act. And what we can seek there is damages. We can get money back fro the people who have been ripped off.”
Last week, DeWine filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County against both James and Edward Boswell, accusing them of "substandard, shoddy and incomplete work" and seeking at least $75,000 in restitution for victims like the Barbers.
"There's got to be some deterrent," DeWine said. "And, when people think that they can continue to rip people off and not have a real punishment, that's a problem."
DeWine said he believes there are more victims.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of this crime, you can call 800-282-0515 or visit OhioProtects.org.