A Youngstown man is accused of running a roof repair scam on an elderly Springfield Township woman.

George Zimmerman, 52, was arrested by township police Thursday for felony theft from an elderly person, which is a protected class under Ohio law.

The charge, filed in Struthers Municipal Court, stems from a complaint filed last month by a 75-year-old widow who said two men came to her door claiming to be from the company that worked on her home’s roof in the past.

One of the men said he was there to do a maintenance check on the roof as a courtesy.

Even though the woman told officers she didn’t remember the men, she allowed them to go up on the roof.  About 20 minutes later the men returned, saying she owed them $220 for repairs.

Saying she didn’t want to get involved in a confrontation, the woman said she made out a check to “Charles Zimmerman”.

Feeling something wasn’t right, the woman contacted the police and stopped payment on the check before it could be cashed.

Police contacted the company that did the original work on the roof and learned that they had never heard of a Charles Zimmerman and never sent anyone to the home for a follow-up.

Using a description of the man’s pickup truck, the name on the check, and information from a parole officer, Police questioned Zimmerman at his home in Youngstown.

Zimmerman told police that he was passing by the home and stopped to fix a loose piece of flashing on the woman’s roof, did some work on two vents, and cleaned the gutters.  The homeowner told police that the gutters were just cleaned last fall, so there probably wasn’t much debris.

According to Police, Zimmerman tried to cash the woman’s check at a local bank but got no money.

Shenango Township Police in Mercer County have charged Zimmerman with theft by deception and making a false statement to induce an agreement for home improvement services.

A township resident told police that Zimmerman pulled into his driveway last July claiming that the tar around his chimney was cracked and a large vine was damaging shingles on the roof.  

The homeowner says he agreed to pay Zimmerman $160 to make repairs. When Zimmerman came down from the roof an hour later, the bill had ballooned to more than $2,700 because of a "special spray" Zimmerman claimed to have used on the roof.

The owner told police that after he paid for the work, Zimmerman left quickly.  The alleged victim says he inspected his roof later and noticed none of the work had been done.

Zimmerman is scheduled to appear for a hearing before a district magistrate next month.

In addition, Boardman Police said they are investigating a similar case in their township.

Records from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections show that Zimmerman was sentenced to prison in 2008 following a conviction in Mahoning County on charges of robbery, kidnapping, and theft.

He was released on parole in late 2022.

The Better Business Bureau says it often receives reports of shady “free” roof inspections. Homeowners should know how to recognize these cons and always hire businesses they can trust.

How the scam works

You receive a call, or someone shows up at the door claiming to represent a roofing company that is working in your area. (Sometimes con artists use the names of legitimate companies, so always check BBB.org first to learn the real address, phone number, and name of the real company).

The fake “roofer” offers a free inspection or an on-the-spot roof repair. Why, you ask? The person may claim that their company is working on a neighbor’s home and is offering inspections to those living nearby, or they just happened to notice your damaged roof. But if you ask questions about where the business is located or how their services work - if you're not dealing with an honest company, you’ll most likely be met with vague answers. If you are speaking on the phone to a con artist, they may hang up if pressed for more details.

If you accept the free inspection from a con artist, the dishonest “inspector” shows up at your house. If they don’t find enough wear and tear to merit a whole new roof, they may fabricate it, by tearing off shingles to mimic wind damage (so pay attention and watch what they do). Or they may show you pictures of someone else’s damaged roof. Don’t hire a company that does this! Repairs from such a dishonest business are not likely to be high quality.

How to avoid roofing scams

Beware of unsolicited offers. Many scams begin with a contractor who “just happens to be in the area” and notices your roof or home appears to need repairs from the outside. Roofing scams typically increase in frequency after a powerful storm, so stay alert. Legitimate roofers may also be in the area, so be savvy enough to check BBB.org and do your homework before hiring.

Get your insurance company to inspect your roof, and/or get a second opinion. Filing a claim with your insurance company goes on your record and could affect future claims or your continued coverage. Before signing any paperwork or contracts with a roofing company, you can have your insurance company come out for an inspection to verify the need for repairs or replacements. You can also call another reputable roofing company to take a look.

Research roofing companies before you hire. Look at a company’s business rating on BBB.org. Keep a close eye on previous reviews and any complaints other consumers might have had. Doing your own research is one of the best ways to know if a roofing company is reputable or just a cover for a scam.