Baton Rouge contractor responds to fraud, theft charges after second arrest

Baton Rouge contractor responds to fraud, theft charges after second arrest
Tanweer Bhatti being walked out by law enforcement. (Source: WAFB)
Tanweer Bhatti being walked out by law enforcement. (Source: WAFB)

BAKER, LA (WAFB) - For the second time in a little over three months, Baton Rouge contractor Tanweer Bhatti found himself in handcuffs facing charges of contractor fraud and theft of assets of aged persons.

Police said he has allegedly swindled tens of thousands of dollars from older Baker homeowners, reportedly promising repairs but delivering poor, unfinished work. A home of an alleged victim toured by reporters revealed uneven floors, unfinished paint work and doors that had to be wedged in place just to stay in the frame.

"We explained last time to Mr. Bhatti that we were not going to tolerate this type of activity in Baker," said Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps.

Bhatti was first arrested by Baker Police in October after six homeowners went to police. Since then police say new complaints have emerged including one in Baker concerning work done in January 2014.

Officials in St. James Parish also issued two new warrants for Bhatti on similar charges. Investigators suspect more could follow in other parishes. When asked if he would refund his customers, Bhatti said he would.

"If any work is not satisfactory done, yes," said Bhatti.

However, as he was escorted to jail Bhatti insisted he had never received any complaints from customers, though he admitted he did not hold a current contractor license.

According to the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors, Bhatti's license expired in 2013 and he has been cited for several violations.

In 2009, he was fined after the board found him guilty of operating without home improvement registrations. In 2011, he was fined again after the board found him guilty of doing home improvement work in excess of $75,000.

Last year, the Better Business Bureau failed his business, Southern Siding, due to complaints and his standing with the LSLBC.

Bhatti said all the complaints and charges against him are a civil matter, not criminal. His attorney, John Di Guilio, agrees.

"I've been harassed, man. That's all I have to say," said Bhatti.

However, Baker Police said Bhatti preyed on elderly citizens, leaving their homes and bank accounts in shambles. Police also said Bhatti has continued to work for another business called Southern Remodelers and Kitchens.

In addition to the fraud and theft charges, Bhatti is accused of using his client's personal information to take out mortgage loans.  Those accusations are being investigated by the Attorney General's office.  A spokesperson for the AG declined to comment on the case while the investigation is ongoing.

"To anybody out there that feels they may have been a victim, please call us and let us know.  We don't want this gentleman to carry on and conduct himself in the manner that he's been doing. It simply cannot be tolerated," said Knaps.

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