BATON ROUGE – A Watson man who founded Cajun Navy 2016 faces charges of contractor fraud that stem from the rebuilding of a Baton Rouge home.
Jon Bridgers, 47, was arrested Wednesday by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office on charges that he did not complete work on a home for which he collected a total of $51,297 from the homeowner.
He did not have proper licensing from the Louisiana Board of Contractors, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, but said he was not aware any job over $7,500 required a license.
He was released on a $10,000 bond.
The News contacted Bridgers on Thursday morning, who referred all calls to his attorney, Phillip Howze, who was not available when reached for comment.
Bridgers founded Cajun Navy 2016 during the August 2016 flood when his home in Watson took in water. He also helped in relief efforts after hurricanes last year in Texas and Florida.
He was an invited guest of President Donald Trump for this year’s State of the Union Address.
Bridgers had collected a $15,000 down payment for repairs to the home in October 2016 and continued the work until mid-June 2017, when he received an additional $17,000.
Bridgers collected an additional $7,500 in July when he reportedly said the work was near completion.
He received another $6,000 for tile insulation, but the victim said the work was never completed.
Bridgers finished the insulation, drywall, flooring and cabinets, the victim told investigators. The victim also claimed Bridgers ruined carpet he had installed and promised he would replace it, but never did.
The victim also alleged that Bridgers received $2,800 for countertops that were never installed. The work remained uncompleted in October 2017 when the victim returned home.
The victim said he paid another contractor $5,500 to finish the work.
The arrest occurred after the EBR Sheriff's Office mediated a meeting between Bridgers and the victim, who said Bridgers received another $3,200 to complete countertops.
Bridgers repaid the $3,200 to the victim, who said the amount was inadequate. The victim said he had paid $17,400 for the job Bridgers did not complete.
Bridgers declined to foot the bill without receipts that proved the cost, while the victim said he would provide receipts after he received the money.
Bridgers had scheduled a May 9 meeting with the homeowner, who declined the money because the deadline expired.
Bridgers said he assumed he was fired because the homeowner found another contractor. He also said he did not have a key to the house.
In addition, Bridgers said he warned the contractor he had other projects on the slate, and told the homeowner the job would take longer to complete.
Cajun Relief, another Cajun Navy group, issued a social media statement dissociating itself with the group Bridgers represents.
The statement reads: "We are putting this article out there for several reasons. First, because there are multiple Cajun Navy organizations we feel the need to clarify that Jon’s organization, Cajun Navy 2016, is not affiliated with ours, Cajun Relief.
"Secondly, Jon and the Cajun Relief Foundation founder have both been recognized by the media as founders of the Cajun Navy and we prefer to head off confusion by clarifying the difference between our organizations.
"Third, we sympathize with victims who are taken advantage of regardless of the stature of the perpetrator in the community. Jon accepted $51,297 but failed to complete the work. This is unacceptable behavior and should be made public. Fraud is an enormous problem after a disaster and we pray the victim gets the resolution they deserve.
"With this honor comes a great responsibility to the victims of the 2016 floods to not take advantage of your position by defrauding them."