State and local officials warn of home repair fraud after tornado

State and local officials warn of home repair fraud after tornado

BEAUREGARD, AL (WTVM) - On Friday, Lee County Officials and the Alabama Attorney General joined together to warn of contractor fraud in the wake of the destructive tornadoes.

With FEMA estimating over 400 homes destroyed and several hundred more damaged in Lee County, there are hundreds of families who have to file insurance claims and hire contractors in order to rebuild their lives and their homes.

Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said this opens the door for seedy and dishonest people to take advantage of the community’s vulnerability.

“As we’re transitioning now into the repair and rebuild phase, insurance money’s coming in, and that is an invitation to folks, really unscrupulous people with nefarious ideas and desires to come in and take that money and take advantage of our community," Hughes said.

Ronnie Hugley was in his home in Beauregard when the tornado hit on March 3rd and he’s now facing the challenge of rebuilding his home because of all the damage from the tornado.

“It tore my kitchen all the way down," Hugley said. "And one of my bedroom walls in falling in. Knocked the bricks off my foundation up there. My home isn’t livable right now.”

Hughes said it’s families like this that need to be careful when contractors and builders approach them.

He said it’s important for people to be proactive, to be aware of the possibility of scams and fraud, and to prevent it from happening to begin with.

To do this, people should ask for a Home Builders Licensure Board license, ask for and check references, get quotes and contracts in writing, compare estimates and be careful of ones that seem too good to be true, and never make a full payment or substantial down payment up front.

Hughes said they are taking any reports of fraud and scams very seriously.

“I can assure you, if you come here and do this stuff," he said. "You’re going to be spending time in jail. And Sheriff Jones will tell you, jail is not fun.”

Hughes said scams and fraudulent activity will not be handled as a civil case but instead will be prosecuted in criminal court.

If you run into any scams or fraud, contact the Alabama Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-392-5658 or www.ago.alabama.gov, or the Lee County District Attorney’s Office at 334-737-3446.

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