December 21 2018,  Saugus

A victory for the consumer

Saugus homeowner gets her money back from solar panel company that tried to scam her

By Mark E. Vogler

SETTLING THE SCORE: Stephanie Hamilton, in a recent interview in her Oakridge Drive home, talks about the satisfaction she recently got by getting back all of the $4,500 that she lost in a solar panel scam last year. She says the Essex District Attorney’s office told her that the contractor who ripped her off would go to jail if he didn’t return her money. (Saugus Advocate Photo by Mark E. Vogler)

Late last month, Stephanie Hamilton finally got all the money she claimed she was owed by the owner of a now-defunct solar panel company that defrauded her out of $4,500 for panels that never got installed on her Oakridge Drive home.

“I feel good considering I felt I wasn’t going to get any of my money back at all,” Hamilton said in an interview this week.

“I think it’s a victory for the consumer, and kudos to the Saugus Police Department for being right on top of this. I’d be better off if this didn’t happen at all. But I’m very grateful that I got my money back,” she said.

Hamilton, 65, lost $4,500 to a solar company owner who filed under Chapter 7 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court after telling her she was going to receive a refund of the down payment she paid by check. But Hamilton filed a complaint that was investigated by Saugus Police and later led to a clerk magistrate’s hearing in Lynn District Court to determine whether a criminal charge of larceny over $250 by false pretense should be filed against William B. Woods, formerly of New London, N.H. He owned Twin State Sun, LLC, which operated in New Hampshire and Massachusetts – where it was the subject of numerous complaints filed with consumer specialists of the state Attorney General’s Office.

Following a clerk magistrate’s hearing this past spring, Hamilton said, she learned that she would be receiving all of her money back. “They came out and said, ‘Don’t worry. You’re going to get your full $4,500,’” Hamilton said

“They told me he would be going to jail if he didn’t pay it all back,” she said.

In a document filed with Lynn District Court last fall, Hamilton recommended that Woods receive “maximum imprisonment based on willful defrauding of many victims.” Hamilton traveled to Lynn District Court three times and twice to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manchester, N.H. over the past year.

Hamilton was the subject of an “Advocate Asks” question and answer interview published in The Saugus Advocate last year. She agreed to talk publicly about her case in hopes that it might help others avoid the problems she encountered. She also wanted to express gratitude to the Saugus Police Department for investigating her case. “The Police Department is proactive and is there to protect you against larceny,” she told The Saugus Advocate this week.

Meanwhile, Woods maintains he’s done nothing wrong and denies that he was facing criminal charges despite the case being prosecuted by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office. “I agreed to reimburse her just to make the case go away. There was never any admission of guilt,” Woods said in a telephone interview this week.

“Did I want to fight this thing from Myrtle Beach? No. So, I paid her back the deposit. I felt bad that she fell into a spot where my company started to slide downhill,” he said.

Woods insists he did nothing wrong and that he was unable to pay her back at the time because of his pending bankruptcy case. “But I wanted to do the right thing. And I was happy to pay her off out of my personal money. Stephanie was just a casualty in a failing company,” he said.

Hamilton said she had another company install 38 solar panels on the roof of her house without any problems.

Hamilton spent more than 36 years working as an auditor and financial specialist with the State of Massachusetts. She retired several years ago as a semi-senior accountant for the state Department of Education. She had also worked previously as a tax auditor and supervisor at the state Department of Revenue.

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