- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 8, 2005

The D.C. government has yet to collect a judgment of about $2.5 million from a Bethesda insurance adjuster found to have defrauded residents of insurance money after their homes were damaged or destroyed by fire.

The District won the civil lawsuit in March 2004 against William N. Suter III and his companies — CW Restoration and the Steven A. Rosen Co. However, Mr. Suter since has declared bankruptcy and cited a provision in the law that says a bankruptcy petition acts as a stay against pending lawsuits.

“The District was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” Mr. Suter, acting as his own attorney in the case, wrote in a legal filing last month in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Mr. Suter did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment for this story.

D.C. officials disagree with his attempt to have the judgment voided.

Traci Hughes, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, said the District is aggressively pursuing the judgment against Mr. Suter, which includes an estimated $2.2 million in restitution for consumers, including those who paid him for work left unfinished.

“We’re still demanding that he pay that judgment,” Miss Hughes said.

In legal filings, the District has argued that the judgment must stand because city officials exercised regulatory and police powers when they sued him in 2002. Lawyers for the District said the bankruptcy provision Mr. Suter cited does not exempt debtors from government actions aimed at protecting public safety and welfare.

The District won a significant legal victory in July, when U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Niles S. Jackson refused to discharge the city’s $2.5 million judgment against Mr. Suter.

However, he has appealed that ruling in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Mr. Suter also has asked that the judgment be voided because he did not have adequate legal representation after the District sued him.

The District’s complaint states Mr. Suter’s employees solicited business from consumers during or just after house fires — promising more insurance money if they did business with his Steven A. Rosen Co.

The company then would contract out renovation work to CW Restoration, also owned by Mr. Suter, court records show. CW Restoration hired subcontractors to perform the work but often stopped paying them before work was complete, according to the District’s complaint.

Mr. Suter said he never had a chance to dispute the District’s lawsuit because of poor legal representation. He said CW Restoration and Steven A. Rosen Co. agreed to a key legal decision involving the default judgment, but he personally did not agree to the decision because he did not have control over the companies at the time.

“Suter has never had his ‘day in court,’” he wrote in a legal filing.

The District sued Mr. Suter in civil court. No criminal charges have been filed against him.

Carolyn Askew, a former customer of Mr. Suter’s company, said city officials have told her that she might not receive money from the judgment anytime soon.

“Right after the case ended, they told me what happened, but said they didn’t know when I would get any reimbursement,” said Miss Askew, who estimated she is owed several thousand dollars for out-of-pocket repairs to her home.

“They told me to go ahead and make my own repairs for now,” she said.

In a separate case, Mr. Suter also faces collection efforts in connection with a lawsuit filed by Kevin and Karyn Scott, whose two children died in a Prince George’s house fire in 2000.

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