Community Development complaints pour in

By Carolyn Roy - bio|email

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - All seven of the people arrested Monday in connection with alleged fraud within the Shreveport office of Community Development are now free on bond, but Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator isn't ruling out the possibility of more arrests.

Prator says plenty of potential tips on more possible fraud cases have been pouring in from people with complaints about their dealings with the office of community development, it's inspectors and the contractors targeted in the probe.  "We've had more than 20 people call to report they've had problems they've had with the office of Community Development, their inspectors, some of the contractors and just overall dis-satisfaction with the office down there."

Prator says they are looking into those complaints, and while he is prepared to turn his findings over to the Office of the Inspector General, he says he hopes the questions won't end there.  "When there's a culture like this that exists where a inspectors, contractors that are allowed unhampered to break the law and take advantage of people, they have to be allowed to do that by supervisors and lack of oversight."

The investigation centered around the city's Office of Community Development and its Neighborhood Revitalization/Limited Repair Program.

Contractors 36 year old Alphonso Williams, (Williams Enterprises), 43 year old James Alex III (Ninja Remodling), 53 year old James Lester (ReGenesis Construction), and 34 year old Santana Brown are all charged with various counts of contracting without a license and contractor fraud and filing flase public records.

According to the release from the sheriff's office, "Supervisors in the Community Development Office allowed Brown and Alex to work in the Limited Repair Program even though their applications were never approved or disapproved by the city."

Three city inspectors, 54 year old Ray Jones, 39 year old Jackie Mandigo and 53 year old Daniel Lacour are all charged with filing false public records and have been placed on administrative leave.  All are accused of knowingly signing off on incomplete or inadequate work by the contractors so they could receive payment before the jobs were finished."

All of the charges are felonies because the victims were over 60 or disabled. The sheriff's office says over the past 18 months, the contractors received more than $1.5M from the city of Shreveport.

Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator said the arrests came after a six-month investigation by the sheriff's office, the Caddo District Attorney's Office and the Louisiana State Police.

During the investigation, Prator said authorities found several cases of unfinished or inadequate repairs in homes occupied by elderly victims, some of them blind, disabled or ill. Prator said city inspectors approved the repairs so the contractors could get their money from the city.

The follow up inspections by authorities found cases of home insulation that was not installed, electrical wiring work that was unfinished or never even started, and air conditioning equipment that was never installed. Prator said in one case. Tags were taken off of an old air conditioning unit and replaced with new tags, but the unit itself was never replaced.

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