Notorious contractor sentenced to prison after August 2016 flood fraud investigations
LIVINGSTON – Matthew Morris, a contractor wrapped up in widespread fraud allegations after the August 2016 flood, pleaded guilty in Livingston Parish Tuesday.
Morris, of Complete Construction Contractors, LLC, was sentenced to four years in state prison with credit for time served and will pay $85,434.30 in restitution. Specific details of the plea deal, including how much the victims he ripped off will be paid, were sealed.
The sentence will run concurrently with any other sentences he may receive – Morris faces charges in numerous area parishes. It's not clear exactly how long he'll be locked up, but representation for Morris tells WBRZ they expect his book to close very soon.
"We expect that he will be out of jail in the next two weeks," said attorney Al Robert, Jr. "He looks forward to having the chance to tell his story."
Robert, representing Morris Tuesday in Livingston Parish, stood alongside Morris' wife, Ashley, who did not have a comment regarding the morning in court. The contractor, who will no longer be able to obtain a license in Louisiana has maintained his innocence from the beginning.
"He does not have to admit guilt and he maintains his innocence to the charges that were filed against him," said Robert.
District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said the message from this is simple: don't defraud people. Of the eleven victims in Livingston Parish, nine of them received some form of closure through the criminal case. Two of those victims chose to sue Morris civilly.
"Certainly Mr. Morris deserved and has been serving a jail sentence which we think is appropriate," said Perrilloux. "He'll leave here a convicted felon as well, so all these things we think make it a good resolution."
Morris was ordered to pay the $85,000 in restitution to those nine victims. It's money that will be paid partially by his insurance company and Morris. Those restitution checks have not been cut yet.
One of the victims in court Tuesday with his family was Lee Weber. Weber told WBRZ he handed Morris $55,000 in insurance money following the August 2016 flood and received little in return. The family ended up spending about $35,000 of its own money to help repair their home.
"We moved on with our lives and someone like Matthew Morris is not going to break this family," said Weber.
While some families did receive some form of closure, it was not a great day in court for everyone. One contractor that performed demo work for Morris says through a lot of false promises he didn't get paid on the work he and his team of about 75 people performed.
"I feel deflated, I mean no one's offered to come up and offer me restitution," said Jameson Chauvin. "I'm out $270-something-thousand out of my pocket and I feel the court system has failed me."
Chauvin also says he's racked up about $100,000 in attorney fees and has yet to receive a dime of what he's owed.
The saga isn't over for Morris. He still has to appear in other parishes and answer to charges there. For now, he's being housed in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. Morris will stay there until his charges are formally taken care of. Morris also has to answer to a plea deal on the table in Ascension Parish involving 18 more victims. Of the 18, 15 will be going through the criminal process and three others have sued Morris civilly. The Ascension Parish District Attorney's Office says it will not accept a plea from Morris until the restitution is in the hands of his victims.
Morris is also facing charges in St. John and Terrebonne Parishes.