Amite, LA. - January 14, 2020 - In August 2019, the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office Financial and Cyber Crimes Unit received a report of an elderly man in Amite being scammed for several thousands of dollars in a home improvement scheme. TPSO Financial Crimes Detective Michael D'Amato and Louisiana Governor's Office of Elderly Affairs Investigator Christina Delgado began a joint investigation into several people cashing checks issued to a 86 - year old Amite man who suffers from diminished mental capacity. It was discovered the victim had been scammed of over $100,000, after the suspects would claim to have performed work on the victim's residence and charged the victim exorbitant amounts of money with either little or no work performed. None of the alleged suspects have been found to be properly licensed contractors.
On January 13, 2020, one of the alleged suspects, 24 -year -old Joshua B. Stokes of Ponchatoula, was brought in for questioning about his role in the scheme. Stokes was subsequently booked in the parish jail for (39) counts for charges related to Exploitation of the Infirmed, Home Improvement Fraud and Criminal Conspiracy.
Sheriff Edwards reminds the public to always check the credentials for contractors soliciting jobs for large home improvement projects. Louisiana law requires contractors to be properly licensed with the state for home improvement projects over $7,500, and for plumbing, electrical and HVAC projects over $10,000. Contractor credentials can be searched and verified online at the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors at http://www.lslbc.louisiana.gov. The TPSO Financial and Cyber Crimes Unit recommends consumers follow three simple rules of home improvement:
1. Always check contractor references and credentials
2. Always obtain a detailed written estimate of the work to be performed
3. Never agree to pay the full cost of the project until the work is at least 50% complete