Handyman nailed in fraud investigation
BATON ROUGE - Police arrested a 41-year-old handyman and charged him with home improvement fraud and felony theft.
Investigators say Marland Hunter, 41, accepted money up front for jobs he either only halfway completed or never fully started. Hunter was arrested last Friday in connection with a job he never finished in 2011.
He agreed to build a bulk head in the victim's backyard for $2,700. He asked for an initial payment of $1,350. The warrant obtained by WBRZ News 2 reports Hunter returned to the victim's home three weeks after the initial payment, completed three hours of work and then left. He returned the next day, installed a stake and then never returned. The victim states that he made several attempts to contact Hunter with no success.
Another alleged victim, Mike Benson, said he was referred to Hunter by a neighbor in August 2013.
"I looked at the work [he did for the neighbor] and it was excellent work," he said. "I trusted that he would do the same for me."
Hunter wrote up a contract and Benson paid half of the costs up front, $1,150, and agreed to pay the rest after the job was finished.
"He asked for money up front," said Benson. "Which should have been the first warning in retrospect."
Benson said Hunter began working on the home but days later asked for more money to purchase insulation and other materials to replace damaged materials behind the facade he had already removed. Benson said he paid $450 up front for the second, unexpected part of the job.
"I had no reason to disbelieve his credibility when I first met him, based on the referral I got," he said.
But, Benson said Hunter vanished and his home was left torn apart.