EDITOR’S NOTE: Sixteen tornadoes smashed through our community on Memorial Day 2019. Since that day, the Dayton Daily News has been on the ground reporting on the devastation and the work of recovery. Now, one year later, we are digging into the obstacles that remain, how the coronavirus pandemic has affected rebuilding and how communities have been changed forever. Go here for more of this coverage.
A contractor accused of ripping off people whose homes were damaged in the Memorial Day tornadoes pleaded no contest to reduced charges in a similar Miami County case while another contractor also charged with theft remains at large despite multiple warrants.
The Dayton Daily News first revealed the accusations against Brandon Valandingham and Robert Tracy Greene in an investigation into complaints from tornado victims about unscrupulous contractors.
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Valandingham, of West Carrollton, received a 30-day suspended sentence after pleading no contest on May 6 to misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges in Miami County Municipal Court.
He was originally charged in October 2019 with felony theft, accused of taking $1,500 to repair the roof of Piqua resident Zachary DeBrosse but not doing the work or refunding the money.
DeBrosse said as part of the plea, Valandingham paid him back. The damage from his house pre-dates the tornado, but he got to know the tornado survivors who accused Valandingham of stealing their money in Montgomery County. DeBrosse said he isn’t happy about the sentence Valandingham received in his case.
“It was nice to kind of get some closure,” he said. “Am I happy about his skating free? No, I’m not. I’m really disappointed. But I feel like there was a chance that was going to happen anyway.”
Messages from the Dayton Daily News for Valandingham’s attorney were not returned.
Valandingham is currently free on bond while awaiting trial in Montgomery County for allegedly bilking tornado victims. He is charged with eight felony theft charges involving four victims. His company was called Buckeye Storm Solutions. Charges against him estimate losses at more than $1,000 and more than $7,500.
Valandingham is currently ordered to appear before Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Dennis Adkins for a scheduling conference on May 27, the one-year anniversary of the tornadoes. Proceedings in his case have been delayed multiple times because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has sued Valandingham and his company for violations of the state’s consumer protection laws.
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Seven people filed complaints against Buckeye Storm Solutions with the attorney general’s office, alleging the company cost them $44,638 combined. Five of the complaints say the company did no work after it was paid. Three complaints stem from property damage from the Memorial Day tornadoes.
The state’s civil lawsuit is scheduled for trial the week of Oct. 16.
Greene, of Dayton, is charged in Montgomery County with 20 felony and two misdemeanor counts of theft involving 10 victims. The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office says his company, TK Home Improvement, went to tornado-damaged areas, entered into contracts for repairs, and either completed only partial work or did no work. Most of the charges estimate losses at more than $1,000.
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Greene has two other warrants out for his arrest on area theft charges. He also has been convicted of theft three times for contractor-related accusations: twice in 2012 and once in 2013.
Greene could not be reached for comment.
DeBrosse said his roof still isn’t fixed from damage more than a year ago that Valandingham was supposed to fix. But he is taking his time and doing his research before hiring a contractor this time.
“I’m going to be more selective,” he said, “to not have to go through this again.”