LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - A man and woman contractor team was arrested by the Walker Police Department Friday for alleged contractor fraud in connection with flood damage repairs, says Walker PD spokesperson, Captain John Sharp.
Denny Cutrer, 39, and Jennifer Haywood, 37, both of LaPlace, were arrested.
Walker Police says Cutrer and Haywood contracted a Walker resident in late August of 2016. "A resident of our city entered into a contract with Mr. Cutrer and Ms. Haywood, doing business as Perfection Painting, to perform certain repairs required as his flood damaged home. The homeowner advances Mr. Cutrer and Ms. Haywood $7,200 for the work. However, after doing only a small amount of the work, the man and woman stopped work, would not respond to the homeowner's efforts to contact them, and refused to return the money they collected from the owner," said Sharp.
After the homeowner contacted Walker PD, he was told Cutrer and Haywood had 45 days after being paid to perform the work. "Under Louisiana's residential contractor fraud statute, absent a written agreement to the contrary, a contractor who fails to perform within 45 days of being paid is presumed to have engaged in residential contractor fraud," said Sharp. "The statute is one of several passed by the Legislature to assist property owners and law enforcement in preventing and addressing fraudulent activities by contractors that often occur following a widespread disaster. Whether the crime is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the amount involved."
Walker PD says that based on the amount of money given to Cutrer and Haywood in advance, this is considered a felony.
After the 45-day period, Walker PD secured felony fugitive warrants for both Cutrer and Haywood.
Walker PD says they have been expecting cases of contractor fraud following the August flood. "From speaking with members of our community, we knew that some of our citizens were having trouble getting their contractors to complete flood repair work, especially those who were paid large sums in advance," said Walker Police Chief, David Addison. "We also knew that a substantial number of contractors who came into the area to find work following the flood were from other areas of Louisiana and that many were from out of state. While most of the contractors working in our area are legitimate, it is obvious that some came here to take advantage of the situation and vulnerable flood victims. In preparing to address this problem, we adopted a zero tolerance policy which includes taking every action possible to locate these contractors and bring them to justice."
After obtaining warrants, the search for Cutrer and Haywood began.
"To no surprise, the address that the two suspects were using for their company proved to be false. However, while going through the information that our officers were able to gather on the two subjects, Walker Detective Christopher Gunter identified a Tangipahoa Parish address that was common to both Cutrer and Haywood," said Sharp. "Detective Gunter then contacted the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office and asked that they check at the address and attempt to determine if the suspects were present. Last night, we received a call from the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office, advising us that both subjects were found at the address and were arrested without incident. This morning, we drove over to the Tangipahoa Parish Prison, took custody of both suspects, and transported them to the Livingston Parish Detention Center for booking."
"While we are gratified that we were able to arrest the suspect in this case, additional incidents of residential contractor fraud are pending and more are expected," said Addison. "Our citizens do not deserve this additional misery on top of the flood damages they have already suffered, but perhaps it will help them to know that apprehending these unscrupulous contractors is a priority for our department. Our officers will aggressively pursue every such claim and use every asset available to us to hunt these people down and put them in jail."
Cutrer and Haywood were booked into the Livingston Parish Detention Center and are both charged with one count of felony residential contractor fraud and one count of misapplication of payments by a contractor.
"Both suspects remain in custody at the Livingston Parish Detention Center, with bond for both suspects set at $25,000," said Sharp.
Walker PD urges anyone who may have been a victim of Cutrer and Haywood, or any other contractor, to contact them at 225-664-3125.