BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Homeowners who saved up their entire lives to build the homes of their dreams said a local contractor duped them out of tens of thousands of dollars. They added, he did shoddy work and left liens on their properties.
His license was pulled, but The 9News Investigators found he may still be in business.
Pam Frank said she and her husband worked hard all their lives to save up for their piece of paradise. They are moved in now, but she said she will forget how hard they fought to get there.
"I was about to go for the jugular," Frank said.
Frank's frustration is with Royce Wynn, owner of Wynnco Construction Company and the man she hired to build her home. She said she did her fair share of research online and could not find any complaints against him.
"He seemed like a great guy," Frank said.
Frank said she and her husband visited the property weekly during the building phase. She said they started to notice the construction had suddenly stopped.
"There would be weeks that he had no one in this house," Frank said.
Frank said she got a phone call from a subcontractor looking for a payment for materials, but she said the bank had already cut Wynnco a check for supplies. Frank said when she started digging she learned three contractors had placed liens on her house and would not deliver the material until they were paid. She said when she called the subcontractor building her kitchen cabinets, everything became clear.
"He said, 'when I get a check from Royce, then I'll start.' He said, 'I dealt with him before and I don't do anything without a down payment,'" Frank said.
Frank learned she had a total of $8,703 worth of liens on her new home from three different contractors. A lien gives them the right to seize and sell her property.
"At that point I wanted his head on a platter," Frank said.
Attorney Mike Rubin, who has been teaching lien law for over three decades, said because residential liens are expensive to contest, often times homeowners do not do anything about them. But they can cost more in the long run.
"The first step is to call a lawyer. It (a lien) impacts your credit if you're personally liable, your home, certainly impact your mortgage," Rubin said.
Frank said she wanted her house built so badly, she paid the $8,703 to clear the three liens.
Frank moved into her house, but she said it still is not as she had hoped. She said the plans called for eight columns across the front of her house. Frank has six. Not to mention evidence of a leaky roof and no landscaping.
Frank said she ultimately wound up paying $30,000 more to hire other companies to finish Wynn's job. Frank said she decided to just cut her losses.
"We just wanted him gone. We wanted him out of our lives," Frank said.
Law professor, Angela Bell, said Wynn took her for ride too.
"As soon as that money changed hands, the problems started," Bell said.
She hired him to build a home office, renovate the master bathroom, and convert a playroom into a bedroom.
Records show the agreed amount for the work was $41,000. In August of 2013, she cut him a check for $20,000. A month later she wrote him checks for $10,500 and $7,250.
"He refused to give us any invoices. We repeatedly asked for invoices. We couldn't get them. Then he would not show up to do work for any long periods of time," Bell said.
Bell said when she got a notice that a lien had been placed on her home by a subcontractor who said Wynn had not paid them, her blood began to boil.
"I'm yelling, like you don't understand the seriousness of this. I thought I was going to get physical with him. I really felt like I couldn't
restrain myself," Bell said.
Bell said after she filed a complaint with the Louisiana Attorney General's office, the lien went away.
However, Bell said Wynn left her house in shambles. The floors in the home office were not finished, neither was her bathroom.
"For about six weeks we had no master bath shower," Bell said.
Bell said, like Frank, she had to spend money she had not budgeted for, $11,000 more, to get someone else to finish the job.
Bell reported Wynn to the Louisiana Licensing Board for Contractors and wrote Wynn's attorney demanding that Wynn pay the $11,000. To her surprise, she learned Wynn was filing bankruptcy.
The 9News Investigators obtained a copy of Wynn's bankruptcy filing. We counted at least 120 creditors including Bell.
The Residential Compliance Supervisor for the Louisiana Contractors Licensing Board, Carl Bourque, said he has been following up on several complaints made against Wynnco.
"This is a pretty bad case," Bourque said.
In August, the board called Wynn to testify on allegations of contractor fraud. According to board meeting records, Wynn, pleaded "no contest." His contractor's license was revoked.
"What we do is contact the permit offices to make sure they know they no longer have a license and they issue a cease and desist order also,"
The 9News Investigators have learned that Wynn may still be involved in the home building business. Records 9News obtained from the Louisiana Secretary of State's office show Royce Wynn is a registered agent with a company called Homes by Sawyer.
"He's not licensed with us. That's a problem. See, I never heard about this before you brought it," Bourque said.
The 9News Investigators went looking for Wynn at the address listed for his company at the Secretary of State's office. He did not come to the door, but he did take our phone call.
Wynn declined an on camera interview but said, over the phone, that he is no longer working as a contractor.
The state contractor's board said it is looking further into Homes by Sawyer to see who is involved in its ownership.
Meanwhile, Bell and several others have court cases pending against Wynn.
"He's a predator, and as long as he's allowed to roam free, he will continue to victimize people in Louisiana," Bell said.
Rubin, the attorney, said the best way homeowners can protect themselves against contractor fraud is to have the contractor get a security bond and have it and a signed contract agreement filed in court. It costs a little more, but can prevent legal headaches in the end.