PORT ALLEN, La. (WAFB) - A Port Allen man says he’s ready to move ahead with a civil lawsuit against a company after he alleges a contractor made off with thousands of dollars of his money.
It was supposed to be one of the happiest times of his life. Gary Edwards got approved for a loan, secured a contractor, and was well on his way to building his dream home in Port Allen.
“It was a blessing, and you know, I was excited,” said Edwards. He claims that dream crumbled after he hired Joseph Appiah with Appiah & Emery Developments, llc to build his home. At first, he admits things were great, but he says Appiah only completed 45% of the project before the work stopped.
"He pretty much answered all the questions I needed. He was helpful from the beginning, like he was trying to work very hard to get my business,” said Edwards. The project started back in August of 2017, but a few short months later, Edwards tells WAFB’s Scottie Hunter he was left with a mountain of bills. Copies of checks obtained by the 9News Investigators appear to show where Edwards paid thousands of dollars to get the project off the ground.
According to the contract he signed with the business, Edwards was supposed to pay Appiah & Emery more than $260,000, which would be broken up into five payments throughout the process.
"I was excited, so I kept paying him lump sums,” Edwards explained. Edwards says he did not realize anything was wrong until he got a letter from the brick company in June of 2018, letting him know they would be filing a lien on his property. The letters claimed the contractor he went with had not paid them for the materials he ordered. The 9News Investigators reached out to representatives with both McConnel Brick & Block and Holmes Building Material, who back up those claims. Employees there tell WAFB’s Scottie Hunter they did have contracts with Appiah & Emery, but never got paid until after they filed a lien on the property and even after that, they say payments came from Edwards, not the contractor.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Edwards to clarify if the businesses were coming after him as well as the contractor. “Yes,” he answered. “They’re coming after me as well. If you got liens on your house, you can’t close out your house and you’ve got to take care of those liens, so he and his company left me in a real big bind that only God helped me get out.”
When he tried to reach out to Appiah for answers, Edwards claims the contractor started dodging him at every turn. A string of text messages he submitted to the 9News Investigators appears to show where the homeowner tried several times to ask questions about the job. Edwards says all of those attempts went unanswered.
“So at this point, I thought something wasn’t right,” Edwards said. “I told him I’m not giving you anymore money until all this here work that’s supposed to be done is done." Edwards claims not only did he have to personally pay the outstanding bills for building materials, but he also had to hire his own subcontractors to get the work finished. According to the contract, the job was supposed to take about six months, but he says his family’s dream home was put off for more than a year.
"We didn’t close on the house until October 2018,” he explained. Edwards says even after moving in, the work was far from over. "I had the house with no garage doors and I had no insulation in the attic,” he said. “That’s why I’m bringing it to the light because I don’t want this company, Appiah & Emery, to do this to anyone else.”
The 9News Investigators found arrest records that reveal Appiah has been in trouble with the law twice in 2019, accused of ripping off homeowners. One arrest warrant from back in April shows where he was wanted in East Baton Rouge Parish. Deputies charged him with residential contractor fraud and misapplication of payments.
In West Baton Rouge Parish, Appiah was picked up again in August since the 9News Investigators started looking into the case. That time, he was charged with residential contractor fraud and misappropriations of payments greater than $1,000.
The 9News Investigators also checked with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office. While representatives from the office could not say whether Appiah & Emery has been working recently, they did reveal the business is not in good standing with the state because of the company’s failure to submit its required annual report.
Representatives with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) report they did not find a license registered to Joseph Appiah when they checked with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter tried to track down the business. The address listed on the contract and on the business website is on Carriagewood Estates Drive. The person who lives at that address says they’re no longer in business with Appiah or affiliated with the company.
When Appiah was reached by phone, he declined to do an interview with WAFB, but said it was actually the homeowner who owed him money and that he had proof that Edwards’ accusations against him were false. When asked what kind of proof he had, Appiah said he would handle things in court, not with WAFB.
The 9News Investigators checked court records in both East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge parishes and as of this report, did not find anything. For now, it’s unclear who’s ultimately at fault in this dispute or whether both sides contributed to the breakdown in the contract. Appiah may have good defenses for the accusations against him, but he chose not to share them with WAFB.
Edwards believes he did everything right and tells WAFB’s Scottie Hunter he’s already in talks with his attorney and plans to file a civil lawsuit against the company.
"I wanted to bring to the light everything that I went through so nobody else will go through it and I knew WAFB would get it out there,” said Edwards.
Appiah says he will be in court soon, but did not elaborate further when asked.