BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Police have a man in custody a man who they say falsely claimed to be a licensed contractor and received tens of thousands from a victim for repairs to a flood damaged home.
Benjamin Cheek, 31, of Zachary, has been arrested on charges of residential contractor fraud, engaging in the business of contracting without authority, and contractors misapplication of payments prohibited.
On June 7, detectives with the Baton Rouge Police Department began investigating claims of contractor fraud from a female victim who said she hired and paid Cheek for construction to her residence, but said he failed to finish the job.
According to the victim's statement to detectives, she hired Cheek on August 22, 2016 to make repairs to her home in Baker which was damaged during the area-wide floods.
She told police Cheek identified himself as a licensed contractor with Platinum Roofing & Restoration, which is based out of Prairieville, according to the probably cause report.
At that time, the victim said she made an initial payment to Cheek for $5,000 by check and weeks later made two more payments of $10,000 and $11,000, both in September.
Authorities say Cheek began repairs shortly after the September payments but would go several days without showing up to work, without explanation.
According to the victim's statement to police, over the course of the next several months, she paid Cheek $78,000, which exceeded the initial $74,343.64 estimate he had given her before starting the repairs.
She said the last time Cheek was seen at the residence was on April 14. According to police, at the time of the investigation, he had not returned to complete repairs, which far exceeds the 45 day requirement mandated under the laws for contractor fraud.
The victim was able to provide detectives with copies of checks written out to and cashed by Cheek. She also give them pages of printed out text messages between her and Cheek.
In the messages, when the victim would ask when would Cheek be able to begin repairs, detectives say he responded with several excuses ranging from running out of gas to admitting he was overwhelmed with multiple projects at the same time.
Additionally in the messages detectives say, Cheek told the victim he did not have the funds to complete the job and requested more money, despite having already received well over the total cost of the repairs.
As part of the investigation, detectives visited the victim's home to review the repairs. According to authorities, the house was in a dilapidated state, with about 60% of repairs incomplete.
Detectives also contacted the Louisiana Board of Licensed Contractors, which confirmed at the time of the initial contract between Cheek and the victim, he was not a licensed contractor in the state.
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