Pool contractor disappears; leaves customers thousands of dollars in debt
ASCENSION PARISH - A New Orleans-based pool contractor has left a handful of customers high and dry after seemingly disappearing without a trace.
As of January 4, detectives with the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office are searching for Kitchel, who is wanted on charges of Residential Contractor Fraud over $25k, and Engaging in Business of Contracting without Authority.
Customers say they last heard from Kenneth Kitchel, owner of Mardi Gras Pools LLC, in mid-November before his phone lines were disconnected, and his Facebook business page stopped interacting with posts.
Donald Johnson says he put down a $30,000 deposit in August for a pool installation at his duplex set for October. Months passed with no work completed, and after Nov. 19, Kitchel stopped responding to Johnson altogether.
“I’m out on $30,000 and I still have to pay back a loan for a pool that I don’t have," Johnson said.
He added that NOPD will not take an official report, calling it a civil matter, and no attorneys are willing to take the case.
Billie Schwehm is in a similar situation. She paid Kitchel a $20,000 deposit for a pool she later found out was never even ordered.
“Always some excuse. So when I finally started closing in on him, he was like three weeks. Then two weeks. Then, I’ll check and see. This is after not responding for four or five days," Schwehm said. "Then I saw where my texts weren’t going through, so we called the pool manufacturer, and they told us that he never even placed an order."
Schwehm says she contacted one of Kitchel's employees, who says he has not heard from his boss since Thanksgiving.
Records show Kitchel was arrested in New Orleans in November. On Dec. 9th, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office issued a warrant for his arrest for writing an illegitimate check worth more than $16,000 to a pool supply store.
The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office is also investigating Kitchel for claims of fraud.
If you have information regarding Kitchel's whereabouts, please contact Crime Stoppers please call 344-STOP (344-7867)
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