LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Kevin Dibenedetto is now having to finish up the work on his own flooded home in Walker.
"Every day that I'm off, I'm over here. I'm here basically from sun up to sun down, trying to get done as much as I can," said Dibenedetto.
The reason he's having to do his own work is because he says he paid a contractor who he claims then skipped town. "A little bit over $47,000," said Dibenedetto.
"Their company is called Amber Contractors based out of Gulfport, Mississippi," said Dibenedetto. "His name is Michael Evans Auxier and his partner is Maria Avare."
Dibenedetto said the couple came to them. At a time when everyone is trying to rush to find a contractor to start the process of returning home, Dibenedetto admits he made a big mistake.
"The day he showed me his license was the day we gave him his first check because I said, 'Just for sake, let me see your license and make sure you do have a license.' He said, 'We really don't have to do that.' I said, 'Yeah, let's do it just for the hell of it.' It looked legal to me. It had a State of Louisiana seal on top of it, looked good to me. Come to find out, it was forged," said Dibenedetto.
The 9News Investigators checked with the State Licensing Board for Contractors. Their response was: "I do not find that Michael Auxier and/or Maria Avare are currently licensed, or have ever been licensed, by this board."
Records show Auxier has been in and out of jail since 2001. Back in September of 2001, Auxier was arrested in Florida by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office. He was picked up for neighboring Orange County on a warrant for violation of wrecker services. Fast forward ten years to 2011. The same sheriff's office arrested him again, this time as a fugitive from Kentucky for outstanding warrants there for theft by deception and fraud.
He then went to Kentucky to serve time for charges of theft by deception of more than $500 and less than $10,000, and bail jumping and theft by deception cold checks (bad checks). By Kentucky law, he was able to get out of his sentence early only if he checked in with his parole officer monthly, but six months later, records show he stopped checking in, so another warrant was put out for his arrest in Kentucky.
That's when Biloxi Police in Mississippi picked him up and sent him back to Kentucky to serve the remainder of his sentence. He was released in May of 2015.
Then in February of 2017, the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office put out two warrants on Auxier on two counts of residential contractor fraud and one count of misapplication of payments prohibited. According to the warrants, one victim in Denham Springs lost $10,000 to Auxier while Dibenedetto lost more than $47,000.
"I want to see them do time, serious time, not this four and five-year stuff because it seems like these contractors break a law, they pay their fine, they do 1 to 2 years and they're back out doing it again," said Dibenedetto.
He said in his case, they actually did some work, but he said for 25 days, sheetrock just sat in his home and he finally hired someone else to install it. He said Auxier even tried to get his neighbor's business.
"They actually went next door to one of my neighbors and he wrote them a check and two of my other neighbors actually went and warned him, so while the contractors left to go cash the check, he called them and told them he had a change of heart and did a stop payment on the check," said Dibenedetto.
When Dibenedetto questioned Auxier, he said, "He cannot work for this woman any longer because she won't pay him. He hasn't gotten paid in two weeks and the whole time, we all knew at the time then that that was his wife."
That woman is Maria Avare, his common-law wife, according to Dibenedetto. The 9News Investigators found she was arrested in 2000 in Florida for resisting an officer and obstruction without violence. Now, Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said they're actively looking for Auxier.
"We know that he skipped town and that he may be in the Florida, Mississippi Gulf Coast area. Well, that's going to tell us that he's from a different area," said Sheriff Ard.
Auxier was arrested in Orange County, Florida on Friday, March 10.
Sheriff Ard is making a personal plea to everyone to just spend even five minutes doing your homework before hiring a contractor. A simple call to the State Licensing Board for Contractors or even a Google search can save you from being cheated. He says if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
"It's not right for them to come out here. These people have been through a lot. We've been through a lot in this parish. For you to come out and scam them out of some money is just flat out wrong and it's not right. Yes, it's a crime, but in reality it's just wrong, and we're going to do everything in our power to get them and they go where they're supposed to go, and that's jail," said Sheriff Ard.
The 9News Investigators called all the numbers listed for Auxier and Avare. All numbers went unanswered.