Cajun Navy founder releases statement after arrest over alleged contractor fraud
BATON ROUGE - A man credited as one of the founding members of the 'Cajun Navy 2016' which aided victims during the flood of 2016 has been arrested after he allegedly took more than $50,000 from a flood victim and never finished work he agreed to do.
According to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, the victim hired Jon Bridgers to complete work on their home back in October 2016. The victim says Bridgers gave a quote of around $47,000, which included a $15,000 down payment.
The victim told deputies he paid Bridgers thousands of dollars in the following months and when he checked on the home in May of 2017, he found minimal work had been done. Still, the victim says he paid Bridgers thousands more in July to do tile installation and other work.
Though some work was complete, the victim claims flooring was damaged in the process.
When he checked on the home again in October, the work was still largely incomplete, at which point the victim told Bridgers he was coming home to complete the job. The victim contacted him again in November over countertops that were paid for but never delivered. He says Bridgers did not respond.
The victim eventually called authorities, saying he had paid Bridgers $51,000 for the job he never completed.
Deputies contacted Bridgers who told them he had warned that the project would take some time due to his other jobs and assumed he was fired when the victim said he was returning home in October.
The sheriff's office tried to facilitate a way for Bridgers to reimburse the victim for the work that went undone, but those plans fell apart after Bridgers allegedly missed the deadline. The victim claims he paid someone else more than $17,000 to complete the work Bridgers left undone.
It was also discovered that Bridgers was not, nor had he ever been, a licensed contractor. He claims he didn't realize he needed a license for the projects he was taking on.
Bridgers was arrested this week and booked on charges of contractor fraud.
Bridgers and other members of the Cajun Navy were invited to the White House earlier this year, where President Donald Trump thanked them for aiding victims of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Bridgers released the following statement Thursday evening:
"My entire life I’ve built a reputation of being a man of my word. The reports you read in the media are NOT telling the whole story. Let me be clear: I did not defraud anyone.
The situation at hand is the result of miscommunication, not fraud. I attempted to amicably resolve what is a contractual dispute.
Since August of 2016 I have humbly sacrificed countless hours helping neighbors and communities in need whether in Louisiana, Texas or Florida. The Cajun Navy is a nationwide movement and I’m proud to play a small part.
My focus remains on the work the Cajun Navy is doing every day to be prepared to respond to the next disaster, wherever it may be. Your prayers are appreciated."