GONZALES – The owner of a Baton Rouge construction company has been arrested accused of committing fraud against several homeowners in Ascension Parish who were affected by the August flood, according to the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Matthew Morris, 39, 21313 Turkey Creek Drive, Baton Rouge, the owner of Complete Construction Contractors, was charged with 12 counts of residential contractor fraud and prohibited activities and sanctions, 11 counts of engaging in the business of contracting without authority, nine counts of misapplication of payments, six counts of theft of assets of aged persons and filing or maintaining false public records.
The joint investigation included the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana State Attorney General’s Office, and the U.S. Secret Service Task Force. Morris’ business office and his home were searched Wednesday morning before he was arrested at his office.
Sheriff Jeff Wiley believes the company could have committed fraud in other parishes and there may be more in Ascension who did not know they could file a criminal complaint. Morris is accused of collecting residents’ insurance payments with inflated or fraudulent bills, over-billing or billing for work not done, and using a system to acquire thousands of dollars in claims assistance fees, according to Wiley.
The Sheriff’s Office received 13 criminal complaints alleging contractor fraud against Morris on home restoration jobs related to the August flood with six of those filed by homeowners over the age of 60. The company is also being investigated by the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors in regards to mold remediation work after not receiving its license to that type of work until Nov. 4.
Homeowners say they never received cost estimates even through requested after signing contracts with Complete Construction that allowed Morris to make change orders that raised costs after dealing with the residents’ insurers. That allowed inflated invoices that were less than payouts by the insurance companies and not enough funding to complete the job.
Upon termination of the agreement, Morris billed the homeowners for claims assistance fees and up to 50 percent of the overall cost of the job while preventing some from continuing to receive insurance payments by placing liens on properties, according to the Sheriff’s Office.