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Louisiana felony theft verdict adds to contractor's woes

In Louisiana, misdemeanors and felonies are classified more simply than in other states. Felony charges are allegations for crimes that can result in a prison term or the death penalty. All other crimes are misdemeanors.

A Baton Rouge defendant accused of theft, from petty theft like shoplifting to grand theft auto, is facing a felony charge. A felony conviction cannot be expunged from a criminal record. Defendants with theft histories may have a lifetime of problems with employers, landlords and financial institutions.

A construction contractor was accused of felony theft for bilking Hurricane Katrina victims out of tens of thousands of dollars. The 64-year-old defendant allegedly did not fulfill contracts to renovate three hurricane-ravaged homes.

The older female homeowners, or in some cases their family members, told a court that the contractor accepted large sums of money for down payments and supplies, but did little or none of the work he promised. Some of the women continued to write checks for home improvements, even though they felt the work was unsatisfactory.

Prosecutors said the contractor, who was not licensed to work in Louisiana, supplied a variety of excuses when the homeowners complained. The man claimed he had health, transportation and family problems that prevented him from performing the work.

The contractor installed drywall and ran electrical wires through one property. A building inspector later said the electrical and drywall work had to be removed for failure to meet housing code standards. Collectively, the homeowners said they handed over $100,000 to the contractor.

A jury found the defendant guilty. The contractor, on parole for an earlier drug conviction, faces a possible 15-year prison term. Similar charges await him in his home state.

Even the theft of a nearly valueless item can cause a lot of legal problems for a defendant. Without strong legal representation, a defendant could carry the shadow of a felony for life.

Source: theadvocate.com, "Fraudulent contractor found guilty of theft in post-Katrina renovations" Claire Galofaro, Nov. 05, 2013

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