Contractor fraud allegations from August 2016 flood nearing 400 complaints

Contractor fraud allegations from August 2016 flood nearing 400 complaints

(WAFB) - The claims against unlicensed contractors following the August flood are still stacking up. The people handling the paperwork report the complaints are nearing 400.

Andrew Darian, Tarodel Grey, Kate Mo, and Edward Starks, Sr. are some of the people arrested for contractor fraud since the August 2016 flood. The list has reached at least 60. Compliance director for the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors (LSLBC), Brad Hassert, says since that flood, his office has received 398 complaints directly related to residential homes.

"Probably 65 to 75 percent of them have resulted in some sort of investigation," Hassert said.

Some of those probes have spanned multiple parishes and turned into major court cases, one being contractor Matthew Morris, who is charged in East Baton Rouge Parish with four counts of residential contractor fraud. In Livingston Parish, he is charged with 51 counts, and in Ascension Parish, Morris faces 84 counts. Hassert says the local guys are not so hard to find, but those who are from out of state are a little tougher to come by.

"They are extremely difficult to track down and a lot of times we are not aware that they are out there until a complaint is made or it's brought to our attention by someone in the media," Hassert said.

But those recognizable names and faces, like Tanweer Bhatti, Kory Henderson, and Mike Simmers, who allegedly swept into flooded homes and sold themselves as legitimate contractors, still must answer for the charges brought against them.

"It only took one or two cases to hit the news and people became aware of the options they had available to them to proceed against the people who had taken advantage of them," Hassert said.

Eighty-eight of those complaints were filed one year after the flood, and the LSLBC says they have seen no signs of slowing down. Hassert says it could take at least another year for the board to get back to a normal workflow.

If you think you've been ripped off by an unlicensed contractor, it's important that you file a complaint with the state. You can do that here.

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