Right Behind Your Baxter

C-Notes would like to thank Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter for taking down the scumbags who threatened democracy in Cuyahoga County by just plain taking orders ["Guilt by Association," January 31]. But while Baxter was in Cleveland taking down lowly workers for the election board's incompetence, he was ignoring his own backyard. In 2005, Charlie Hamilton bought property in Sandusky to renovate into condominiums, but needed someone to actually do the work. He found Sam D'Ambrosio. Hamilton took out a $260,000 loan to pay for the renovations. Five months later, the money ran out and many of the subcontractors hadn't been paid. Hamilton confronted D'Ambrosio, who said he'd taken some of the money to pay personal debts. (Hamilton says it was more than $80,000.) So he severed their relationship and called Sandusky Police. They found enough evidence to warrant felony theft charges, and turned it over to Baxter's office. But D'Ambrosio was ready. He brought his own records to show police how the money was spent. They concluded it was a civil matter, and never bothered to look into D'Ambrosio's past. They would have found plenty. In 2002, Brecksville police arrested D'Ambrosio for passing a bad check to a door company from Elyria. They'd pinched him earlier that year, too, but he'd paid up. "This guy wasn't a rocket scientist," says Detective Sergeant Russ Loede. "He just worked the angles." In the last two years, D'Ambrosio has lost judgments totaling $10,000 to suppliers in Sheffield and Avon Lake. Before that he'd had problems with business partners in Texas and New Jersey. "This guy is simply a snake," says Hamilton. "I would not be surprised if this guy has a trail of trash all over the country." And D'Ambrosio still wasn't through with Hamilton. Last April, Hamilton got a call from a lawyer working for a lumber company D'Ambrosio had stiffed. They wanted to garnish his wages, so D'Ambrosio told them he still worked for Hamilton. Hamilton says he's made repeated follow-up calls to Baxter's office, but they've ignored him for more than a year. When C-Notes called, we were told there isn't even a file. "Just a memo with the guy's name," a worker told us. Hamilton's venture, meanwhile, collapsed. He needed a second loan — and his mother's retirement money -- to finish the project. He found a buyer, too, but couldn't close fast enough to avoid defaulting on the loans. The property was seized, and sold at a sheriff's auction late last month for $315,000 -- less than a third of its appraised value. — Jason Nedley
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