BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A contractor who has been the focus of several stories by the 9News Investigators has been nailed with the maximum penalty allowed by the state.
Tanweer Bhatti has been arrested before and has had his license revoked, but 9News has learned he may have found a way to skirt the system.
The road to recovery for Tequila Aucoin has be paved with one problem after another. It started, she said, when she hired Radiant Home Improvement and Southern Remodelers and Kitchens to repair her flood-damaged home. She said Bhatti drew up two contracts for the work, one for $75,000 with Southern and the other for $45,000 with Radiant.
Bhatti, who has been in trouble several times with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors (LSLBC), is not licensed to do any work over $75,000. Aucoin said when the work to her home was not getting done, she fired Bhatti and filed a complaint with the LSLBC. She told board members that Aucoin presented her with both contracts.
Bhatti told the board he agreed to talk to Southern Remodelers only after Aucoin contacted them. "I told her I am licensed to do $75,000. I can't do that job," said Bhatti.
Aucoin denies she reached out to Southern Remodelers. Attorney for Radiant Home Improvement, Steve Watterson, argued that while Bhatti may have spoken to Southern about the work, the two contracts were not joined.
"The scope of the work is totally different. Southern Remodelers did the flood work only. They gutted the house. Radiant was hired to do upgrades to the house," Watterson said.
Board members did not buy it. At one point, one of the board members called the deal they say Bhatti cut with Aucoin on behalf of both companies, a conspiracy.
"It looks to me like the same person wrote them. The numbers look the same. I believe they were presented by the same person. I bet it was the same person presenting the contracts. It's the same entity as far as I can see it," said Rob Hamilton, a board member.
The board found Bhatti guilty of trying to evade the law by agreeing to a joint venture with Southern Remodelers. He was fined $15,000. Bhatti, who already has an outstanding balance from the board dating back to 2009, had nothing to say as he left the hearing. His attorney, Watterson, had this to say about the new penalty: "The state is going to send us a letter authorizing what the fine is and we are supposed to respond to that in the next seven to ten days," Watterson said.
Aucoin said she is still struggling to repair her home, but believes justice has been served. "I think they needed to do exactly what they needed to do," Aucoin.
The LSLBC gave Southern Remodelers a $5,000 fine and agreed to turn the entire case over to the Louisiana Attorney General's Office for further review.