WATSON, LA (WAFB) - An owner of TWG Contractors has been charged with one count of residential contractor fraud related to the August 2016 flood.
The accused contractor, Mike Simmers, was formally charged Thursday. He says he is not guilty and plans to fight the charge that is pending against him.
Mark Tibbetts, a Livingston Parish homeowner who hired Simmers, says Simmers charged him for work that he did not do. Tibbetts says he gave TWG Contractors a $25,000 down payment after initially being told by the company that the repair work on their flooded home would cost $82,000. But, he says, the company later came back and told him the work would actually cost closer to $96,000. The home was damaged in the August 2016 flood.
Simmers issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that Tibbets is the one who has done wrong, not him. He said that the bureaucracy of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is confusing many flood victims.
"TWG Contractors is doing its best to rebuild the community," Simmers said in the statement. "The NFIP insurance program and rebuilding after a flood is difficult. It is one of the most difficult endeavors in reconstruction. The bureaucracy of the NFIP program itself creates delays in the start and completion of projects. TWG provides estimating services to accurately estimate the reconstruction costs of its clients. This process takes as much as 120 days to just get the correct estimate amount. Homeowners, in their mind, believe they get to keep some of their NFIP insurance proceeds. TWG will not participate in any type of insurance fraud. Therefore, we communicate with our client's insurance provider prior to providing our estimates. A number of our clients, once our estimates have been totaled and finalized with the NFIP program, have fired us in order to defraud the program and retain a portion of their insurance funds."
Simmers says the Tibbetts fired him after finding out the work would cost more than Tibbetts thought it would. "The Tibbetts were given a low-ball estimate by the NFIP program adjuster and TWG was dismissed with no cause after they (the Tibbetts) were given the final estimated increased amounts," Simmers said.
Tibbetts, reached by phone Wednesday evening, was furious at the accusation that he's done anything wrong. "They gave us charges for work they did not do," Tibbetts said. "We fired him and he got mad at us and he then sent us bills for more work that he did not do. I was never trying to get any money that was not mine. He also charged us for work that they did to correct problems they caused during their construction work."