WALKER – Walker police arrested a man-and-woman contractor team last week for contractor fraud in connection with flood-damage repairs, according to a police spokesman.
Capt. John Sharp said Denny Cutrer, 39, of LaPlace, and Jennifer Haywood, 37, of LaPlace, were charged on Friday, Jan. 20, with one count each of felony residential contractor fraud and one count each of misapplication of payments by a contractor.
Bond was set at $25,000 for each.
“While we are gratified that we were able to arrest the suspects in this case, additional incidents of residential contractor fraud are pending and more are expected,” Police Chief David Addison said.
“Our citizens do not deserve this additional misery on top of the flood damages they have already suffered,” he said, “but perhaps it will help them to know that apprehending these unscrupulous contractors is a priority for our department.”
Sharp said the case began in late August, when, “A resident of our city entered into a contract with Mr. Perkins and Ms. Haywood, doing business as Perfection Painting,” to perform repairs.
“The homeowner advanced Mr. Perkins and Ms. Haywood $7,200 for the work,” he said.
After doing only a small amount of the work, the pair stopped work, did not respond to the homeowner’s efforts to contact them, and refused to return the money, the police captain said.
The homeowner contacted Walker police, Sharp said, and was told Cutrer and Haywood had 45 days after being paid to perform the work.
“Under Louisiana’s residential contractor fraud statute, absent a written agreement to the contrary, a contractor who fails to perform within 45 days of being paid is presumed to have engaged in residential contractor fraud,” Sharp said.
“The statute is one of several passed by the Legislature to assist property owners and law enforcement in preventing and addressing fraudulent activities by contractors that often occur following a widespread disaster,” Sharp said.
“Whether the crime is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the amount involved,” the public information officer said.
Based on the $7,200 paid to the contractors, the fraudulent activity was classified as a felony, he said.
When the 45-day period expired, police secured felony fugitive warrants Cutrer and Haywood, The warrants also charged them with misapplication of payments by contractors, a misdemeanor, Sharp said.
“To no surprise, the address that the two suspects were using for their company proved to be false,” Sharp said.
However, Detective Christopher Gunter identified a Tangipahoa Parish address for Cutrer and Haywood, he said.
Detective Gunter then contacted the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office and its officers located both at the address and they were arrested without incident, Sharp said.
Sharp said police are seeking other residents who may have been victimized by the suspects.
“It is our hope that the two suspects we have in custody only victimized the resident who filed the complaint against them,” he said.
“However, if anyone else has contracted with Mr. Cutrer, Ms. Haywood, or their company, Perfection Painting, and feel that they may have been defrauded, please call us at (225) 664-3125,” he said.
Chief Addison said the Walker police has been expecting incidents of residential contractor fraud.
“From speaking with members of our community, we knew that some of our citizens were having trouble getting their contractors to complete flood repair work, especially those who were paid large sums in advance,” Addison said.
“We also knew that a substantial number of contractors who came into the area to find work following the flood were from other areas of Louisiana and that many were from out of state.
“While most of the contractors working in our area are legitimate, it is obvious that some came here to take advantage of the situation and vulnerable flood victims,” he said.
“In preparing to address this problem, we adopted a zero tolerance policy which includes taking every action possible to locate these contractors and bring them to justice,” Addison said.
“Our Officers will aggressively pursue every such claim and use every asset available to us to hunt these people down and put them in jail.”
Addison thanked the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office for its assistance.
“Neighboring law enforcement agencies are facing the same kinds of complaints related to contractor fraud that we are experiencing in Walker,” Addison said.
“By sharing information and helping each other as we have, we greatly increase our ability to bring these cases to prosecution and successful conclusions.”