- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 13, 2005

A federal judge has upheld the District’s right to collect more than $2 million from a Bethesda insurance adjuster whose businesses were found to have defrauded city residents after their homes were destroyed by fire.

The ruling by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt last week comes three years after the District sued William N. Suter III and two companies in which he served as corporate officer, C.W. Restoration Inc. and the Steven A. Rosen Co.

Mr. Suter’s companies pressured residents into signing contracts after their homes were destroyed in fires, misrepresented fees, diverted insurance money and left repair work incomplete, according to the D.C. Office of the Attorney General.

“We are pleased with the ruling,” said Traci Hughes, spokeswoman for Attorney General Robert J. Spagnoletti. “Hopefully, this will convince Mr. Suter to pay the judgment brought against him for defrauding District residents.”

The District won a judgment against Mr. Suter and the companies last year. The judgment included an estimated $2.2 million for consumers and more than $200,000 in attorney fees.

The District sued Mr. Suter in civil court. He was not charged criminally.

But collection efforts have been slowed by Mr. Suter’s decision to file for bankruptcy in Maryland last year.

Mr. Suter did not return phone calls seeking comment.

In court pleadings, Mr. Suter denied personally approving financial documents that city officials cited in the lawsuit. He has sought to avoid paying the debt by arguing that a provision in federal bankruptcy law acts as a stay against pending lawsuits.

A bankruptcy judge ruled against Mr. Suter in July, but he appealed that decision to U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

However, Judge Chasanow’s 23-page opinion, issued Nov. 7, sided with attorneys for the District who argued that the bankruptcy provision Mr. Suter cited doesn’t apply in cases when the government files lawsuits to protect public safety.

Mr. Suter also argued that he did not have adequate legal representation after the District sued him in D.C. Superior Court in 2002, court records show.

“Suter has never had his day in court,” Mr. Suter, acting as his own attorney, stated in legal documents.

Mr. Suter said he did not have control over the companies, when an attorney was making key legal decisions without informing Mr. Suter of the consequences.

However, Assistant D.C. Attorney General David Fisher of the agency’s tax, bankruptcy and finance section stated that Mr. Suter “had a full and fair opportunity” to participate in his defense, court records show.

According to the District, Mr. Suter, through his companies, solicited business from consumers during or just after house fires by promising more money if they did business with the Steven A. Rosen Co.

Steven A. Rosen Co. then contracted renovation work to C.W. Restoration, which hired subcontractors but stopped paying them before work was complete, court records show.

Mr. Suter stated that he did not “personally guarantee” any of the payments or services that the District cited in its complaint against him.

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