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Felony charges dropped for Indianapolis construction contractor

Fourteen felony charges have been dismissed against a construction contractor featured in Angie’s List Magazine’s January 2009 roundup of worst contractors in Indianapolis.

In lieu of the charges, CPM Construction of Indiana owner Joseph Radcliff agreed the prosecutor had probable cause to pursue one count of misdemeanor criminal mischief as part of an April 1 agreement with the Marion County Prosecutor's Office. Radcliff was arrested in September 2008 on charges stemming from National Insurance Crime Bureau allegations that Radcliff's company intentionally damaged homeowners' roofs to inflate insurance claims in the wake of hailstorms.

"Unfortunately, we do not have enough to go forward on the case," says Marion County Prosecutor spokesman Mario Massillamany. Homeowners and a former employee were no longer willing to testify or had changed their initial statements and without them, the case had no legs, Massillamany says. "But just because we dismiss a case doesn't mean the individual is innocent," he says.

Jennifer Lukemeyer, Radcliff's defense attorney, says her client was committed to beating the case because the facts didn't support the charges. "This was the easiest resolution that guaranteed the dismissal of the charges," Lukemeyer says. "He didn't admit to the commission of any offense or any action that could constitute a criminal offense."

As part of the agreement, Radcliff paid $660 in fines and court costs. Admitting the state had probable cause doesn't imply guilt but rather that the state had enough information to pursue the charge, Massillamany says. He emphasized the agreement is contingent on Radcliff committing no criminal offenses for two years. If he were to run afoul of the law within that time, the prosecutor could reinstate the charges. "I doubt these charges would ever be resurrected," Lukemeyer says. "That's a standard term in every diversion agreement."

Between 2007 and 2008, Angie's List members' negative reports described the company attempting to enforce unclear contract terms and delayed storm damage repair work - though no reports mentioned claims of intentional damage to their homes.

Also in April, the Indiana attorney general closed a civil complaint it filed against CPM and Radcliff in December. The complaint alleged CPM represented to homeowners that when they signed paperwork, it only authorized an estimate. However, the complaint states, when homeowners chose not to hire CPM, the company attempted to enforce the paperwork as a contract that entitled it to 20 percent of the contract's value.

In May 2007, Daviline Arnold, one of four homeowners named in the complaint, says CPM performed an estimate on her home's roofing and siding hail damage. She says they asked her to sign paperwork stating she approved the company contacting her insurance company. "They said 'It's not a contract,' so I went ahead and signed it," Arnold told Angie's List Magazine. "Come to find out the other side was a contract that I unknowingly signed. It said that if I backed out, I agreed to pay them 20 percent of the job."

CPM business attorney Mark McKinzie says that prior to the complaint, the company had already changed its practices to include explaining the agreement's terms to customers and providing separate cancellation forms. To resolve the complaint, CPM and Radcliff agreed to comply with Indiana's home improvement contract laws and released homeowners from the contracts. Arnold says she remains wary. "There's that old saying that a leopard cannot change its spots," she says.

 


Comments

I want to thank everyone who supported me through the past 4 years. It’s a story that sounds like a movie script. In 2006, a huge hailstorm damaged hundreds of homes in Indiana. State Farm, not surprisingly, denied many of the claims. After complaints to the Indiana Department of Insurance led it to begin an investigation, State Farm accused a myself and my company of intentionally damaging roofs in order to collect insurance. What does State Farm do? Accuse the accuser of fraud to protect its brand. After all, it has to protect it’s clients from fraudulent claims, right? State Farm sent information to the Indianapolis Police Department which led to felony charges being filed against me and CPM Construction. Funny enough not any evidence for my engineers, other contractors that inspected the property before my company, and yes the changed engineering reports that state farm requested to be done. the first ones said not hail damages as they all did at this time in indy but requested them to be changed and now they say " Man Made Damages" funny how the notes were redacted that said to make changes and how the first engineering reports were with held. Those charges were quickly dropped, but the damage to my business and reputation had been done. Thanks to the work of Mark Mikensey, Joe Williams, Will Riley and other attorneys at both Price, Waicukauski & Riley, LLC and Riley, Bennett and Egloff, I was vindicated when a jury awarded me $14.5 million for defamation. That’s right, the claim that my company and myself had committed fraud were FALSE. I had never committed fraud at all but was simply a hard-working contractor swept up in State Farm’s campaign to increase it’s profit margins and create another “example” of how “fraudulent” claims are destroying businesses. So next time you hear an insurance company talking about how it works hard to avoid “frivolous claims” and “fights fraud.” Think of me " Joe Radcliff "

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