Action Report: What you can do if you experience contractor fraud

Action Report: What you can do if you experience contractor fraud

SAUCIER, MS (WLOX) - Since Hurricane Katrina, Action Reporter AJ Giardina has gotten calls from hundreds of homeowners. Most recently, a Saucier man contacted AJ saying his contractor walked off the job after getting paid in full.

Don and Helen Rose hired contractor William Bermudez to replace their old roof with a new one on their manufactured home. They say Bermudez had just moved into their neighborhood.

"She trusted him and I trusted him," Don Rose said, "and we gave him half the money down."

Rose said he gave Bermudez a check for $1,700.

"He went and cashed that and it was to buy materials, which were never delivered. He came back two days later with a sob story. 'They were going to cut my electricity off. I need the money. Anyway, you can pay me some more on this?' And my wife said, 'OKay, yes.' It ended up we gave him about $3,700 and said he would be back and have everything in about two or three days. He never showed up."

Rose said Bermudez moved away shortly after and his phone numbers were no longer in service. They say they have been unable to contact Bermudez to find out why he picked up and left without doing the work.

I tried calling those same numbers... no luck.

Rose said he filed a complaint with the State Attorney General, believing he would get justice.

"The Attorney General wrote us a letter back and said well, there's nothing we can do. He's not licensed. He's not bonded. It's a civil matter," Rose said. "There's something wrong with that picture when a guy can steal, flamboyantly steal from people and there's no recourse."

But according to Ocean Springs Municipal Judge Matthew Mestayer, there is something a homeowner can do.

"What we see a lot of, I think, is the criminal option, AJ," stated Judge Mestayer. "You can go to the local police force, file a complaint. They'll do an investigation, and there's a felony criminal statute and a misdemeanor statute that can be brought to bear. And when that's done, as the judge, as I do in Ocean Springs, a lot of occasions they can order restitution. Because they can require the contractor, whoever it is has done wrong, to pay the money back. And we find that to be highly successful, and we highly recommend it."

Don Rose said since he had to hire another contractor, the roof on his home ended up costing double. He paid nearly $8,000.

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