Contractor Fraud Response Team started in Calcasieu Parish
LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - There’s a new task force aimed at helping consumers who may be the victim of fraud or theft.
It’s a continuing problem for consumers who often call law enforcement seeking help, and now, the Calcasieu sheriff, district attorney and other agencies are working together to fight fraud by creating the contractor response team.
Cyndi Drachman in Calcasieu Parish says she gave a contractor $8,000 and never saw him again.
“He never showed up. He sent roofers out to remove the old shingles. Come 3 o’clock there was no Joey, 3:30 no Joey. He wasn’t answering my phone calls, my text messages,” Drachman said.
Drachman says victims were even told by a girlfriend he was killed in a car crash, but at last word, Joey Kermit Leger was in jail in Lafayette facing charges in several parishes, including Calcasieu.
D.A. Stephen Dwight urges consumers to call the response team.
“Contact the district attorney’s office. We will answer any questions you have. We will assign an investigator to take care of that matter, and we’ll bring those cases to justice,” Dwight said.
He says they are taking the situation very seriously.
“The incidence of contractor fraud is on the rise, and we are taking action to send a clear message to those criminals who are taking advantage of our citizens as they work to rebuild and recover from last year’s hurricanes,” Dwight said. “We will pursue, arrest and prosecute anyone committing contractor fraud in Calcasieu Parish.”
Sheriff Tony Mancuso says they have 100 cases and eight arrests so far.
“Let me tell you, there’s a lot of people hurting here. They’ve lost a lot. They’ve had trouble with insurance. They’ve had trouble with a lot of things, and now to have a contractor come in and swindle them out of the money they finally do get, we can’t tolerate it. We’ve got to be aggressive with it,” Mancuso said.
He adds that prevention is also important, asking citizens to always check references and to be alert to the warning signs of common contractor scams, such as door-to-door solicitations, demands for cash, unusually large down payments, no references, no permanent address, high pressure sales or scare tactics, no insurance or license, or no contract.
Click here to read about some of those arrested for contractor fraud so far.
Officials say it’s illegal for contractors to operate without a license, and you can check that by going to the Louisiana Contractor Licensing Board web site or by calling them. Officials say they should also be registered with the La. Secretary of State.
The Better Business Bureau is another place to check out a company’s track record or file a complaint.
Both Dwight and Mancuso asked citizens to report suspected fraud even if they are unsure if a crime has been committed.
The contractor fraud response team number is (337) 437-3405.
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