Mowed Over Investigation Continues - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Mowed Over Investigation Continues

September 19, 2006
Reported by Rhonda Kitchens 

"I'm 81-years-old," says Marvin Lawson, "and I've got no way of any income, except my social security. That's what I'm living on."

But Lawson says he needed his home repaired, so in June of this year he handed over $400 to Josef Cash, Jr. All he got in return, Lawson says, was excuses why no one ever showed up to do the work.

Lawson says, "Then they claimed they fired the people and they didn't have anyone to do the work any more."

Christie Labove says that's the same excuse she got in August after waiting four months to receive landscaping she paid Cash $6,000 for. This was money the family didn't have to lose, after losing their home in Hurricane Rita.

"All we had left," says Labove, "was what we were able to fit in the trunk of our cars."

And you may remember, Martha Quinn. Hers was the first story KPLC brought you on LMS Contracting and it caught the attention of several viewers, including George Mowbray.

"All of the pieces to the puzzle started falling into place," says Mowbray. He paid Cash over $9,000. In return, he says, all he got was clean shrubs and more excuses.

"He kept telling me he was out of town, we couldn't get together."

That was until a letter arrived in the mail, just one day before our story aired.

Mowbray says, "In that letter, he says closing his business was the hardest thing he's ever had to do."

So, if LMS was already out of business, why was Mr. Cash continuing to sign contracts with new customers?  We attempted to ask him just that, but were referred to his attorney who refused our request to ask him that directly. So 7News decided to search for the answers on our own.

What we uncovered was several lawsuits filed against Cash for unfinished work. We also pulled records on his business license. He's operated seven and two of those remain active, LMS and Custom Bilt Fencing.

"I would like to have him prosecuted for fraud and theft," says Lawson and he may get his request. 

Detective Mike Byrne of the Calcasieu Sheriff's Office says, "We have received a number of complaints involving misapplication of contractor payments related cases or cases that we consider to be theft that have been filed listing Mr. Cash as the perpetrator."

Two of which have already resulted in charges.

As for the Quinn's, we revisited their home last week and they tell us since the story aired, Cash has been doing the work he promised.

"To this point it is proceeding slowly," says Chris Quinn.

But Christie Labove says the Quinn's are lucky to see any results at all. 

"I mean, you don't come into someone's home and look that they've lost everything and then take what they got money to replace and know that you were going to just rip it, steal if from them, steal them blind."

And there is more, according to the State Agriculture Department, Cash has been fined three times since 2005 for operating without a horticulture license.

Commissioner Bob Odom tells 7News he expects an injunction to be handed down against Cash this week.

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