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Snow-removal firm agrees to refund 17

A Fort Wayne company has agreed to make restitution to 17 customers who prepaid a combined $3,649 for plowing services but complained that all they got in return was a snow job.

Local businessman Brian Thornton reached the settlement with Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office, Indiana officials announced Monday. The agreement did not include an admission of guilt.

Thornton was doing business as Fort Wayne Snow Removal Corp., 215 Snow Removal Corp. and 317 Snow Removal Corp.

The area code for Philadelphia is 215, and the area code for Indianapolis is 317. In November 2012, Thornton announced his company had expanded to Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit and nine other cities.

“As part of the agreement, the defendants do not intend to provide snow removal services and will fully refund for services not provided within 60 days,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

The company has also agreed not to do business in Indiana. Thornton said Monday that he’ll consider offering services elsewhere.

“We’re going to look at it on a state-by-state basis,” he said.

In a statement, Zoeller thanked the Northern Indiana Better Business Bureau for its work on the case. The local BBB compiled numerous customer complaints against Fort Wayne Snow Removal during the 2012-13 winter. The nonprofit consumer advocacy group revoked the company’s accreditation as a result, a BBB official said in April 2013.

Thornton told The Journal Gazette at the time that he was disappointed with the BBB’s decision.

“We see it as a punch to the gut, but our (workers) will do better come next winter,” he said, chalking the problems up to rapid expansion.

Zoeller’s office sued Thornton’s company in August.

In a Journal Gazette story published in September 2012, Thornton detailed plans to hire 65 workers that year to remove snow from local customers’ driveways and sidewalks. The company would provide shovels and plows to the on-call contractors, who would be paid $22 to $30 an hour, Thornton said.

The entrepreneur billed his business as better than shoveling done by the kid down the street because his company was licensed, bonded and insured.

Thornton was selling season passes for residential snow removal whenever snowfall was deeper than 2 inches. The price was $200 to $400, depending on driveway size, he said.