The Investigators: Nailed

The Investigators: Nailed
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Some homeowners who hired a local contractor are stunned after being nailed with a lawsuit and thousands of dollars in fines. The company that did the work allegedly did not pay for all of the materials, and now the customers are paying the price.

Wind, rain, and hail can wreak havoc on Louisiana homeowners. In April of 2014 a hail storm dumped more problems than some had imagined.

When Marsha Graves discovered her roof had been damaged, she said she hired contractor, Spartan Remodeling, LLC to do the repairs. Graves said she read the agreement carefully.

"I thought I was so smart. Being a victim of Hurricane Katrina, I had my ducks in a row," Graves said.

On June 9, 2014, Marsha Graves signed the contract which stated Spartan will invoice the insurance company. The total claim of insurance was just over $13,300 dollars. Graves' insurance company cut her two checks to cover the cost. Graves said a man named Robert Covey with Spartan came by to get the checks. Graves assumed her end of the business deal was complete. Until, Graves said, a sales representative with Spartan contacted her about collecting the checks.

"He said, he is not supposed to do that. I do that. Something must be wrong," Graves said.

Graves said several weeks later she got a letter from an attorney for Picou Building Supply. It was a formal notice of nonpayment on the account of Spartan Remodeling for building materials. It also stated a lien was placed on her home for $3,731 plus interest and attorney fees.

"I was floored. Really, I was floored," Graves said.

Graves said she responded with a letter disputing the charges, which she said included copies of the checks from her insurance company. They were endorsed by Graves and for deposit by Spartan Remodeling. The company's attorney responded stating "Under Louisiana law, when a contractor fails to pay a supplier, the supplier has the right to file a lien against the property."

"I paid the bill and they were like, the bill didn't get paid to the vending company therefore you're responsible. And, I'm like, how," Graves said.

Graves again disputed the charge and lawyers for Picou responded saying, "We have received a telephone call from Spartan promising to pay the account by the end of the week." That was on September 30, 2014.

"I said, this ought to end that. Well, it didn't," Graves said.

More than a year later, Graves still has a lien on her property, and is being sued by Picou Builders.

"I have gone to see an attorney and the fees are astronomical," Graves said.

Lloyd Allen, also a customer of Spartan Remodeling, said he is in the same boat. Allen said Spartan agreed to replace his roof and work with the insurance company to arrange for a payment.

"It came to $21,000 and the insurance paid $12,000 or $13,000 up front, and after they paid the rest," Allen said.

Like Graves, Allen thought once the checks were cashed, his financial obligation was complete. That was until he got a letter from the attorneys for Picou Builders claiming the materials were never paid for. As a result, a lien of $5,733 was placed on his property.

"I just thought, I don't even know who you all are," Allen said.

According to documents The 9News Investigators obtained from the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors, Spartan was licensed from November 15, 2012 through November 15, 2013. Robert Covey is listed as the CEO. The documents also show he has not held a license since 2013.

Licensing Board Investigator, Carl Bourque, said when Covey replaced Graves' and Allen's roofs in 2014, he did not have a license. Bourque said the board took action against Covey back in 2012 for the same thing.

"He was brought here, fined, and paid the fine. Then, he received a home improvement registration. Once the board penalizes you and you pay your fine you can apply for a license and it's up to the board if you receive a license or not," Bourque explained.

But Bourque said shortly after the board gave Covey another shot, the complaints started coming in. They stretch from Louisiana to Oklahoma. The documents also include a letter Covey sent to his customers in January of 2014 notifying them that he is closing and his license is being pulled. It added, "We owe you money and …we do not know if we will be able to pay this debt."

Bourque said he and investigators with the Louisiana Attorney General's office have a case against Covey, but they cannot find him.

"We located him one time but he disappeared again. I think he is out of state now," Bourque said.

The 9News Investigators visited the last known address listed for Covey in Denham Springs. The person who answered said Covey was out of town.

Covey told 9News over the phone that his customers owe him money and that is why he has been unable to pay Picou Builders. He also said he had proof. Two weeks later, Covey has yet to provide 9News with any documents supporting those claims.

Graves told 9News after her this interview that she decided to pay the liens to avoid further interest rates.

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