Miss. coast contractor pleads guilty to home repair fraud

Published 12:35 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2007

BAY ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Pass Christian contractor has been given a five-year suspended sentence in a home repair fraud dating to Hurricane Katrina.

Hancock County Circuit Judge Roger Clark on Monday ordered John Henry James to serve five years in a post-release program. Three of those years must be spent reporting directly to authorities on a regular basis.

James was charged with false pretense after receiving payments following the Aug. 29, 2005, hurricane and then failing to complete repairs to a Diamondhead home. James pleaded guilty to the charge before Clark on Monday.

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Clark also ordered James to repay $5,800 to Eugene Anderson Jr., the Diamondhead resident who hired him.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Fisher said James’ guilty plea stemmed from a failure to finish work he agreed to do in September 2005.

James said he agreed to do three phases of work for the customer and completed the first. However, when he began roof replacement work, he said he found further damage to the residence that could not be covered by the original payment agreement.

“I thought it was a civil matter,” James said. “I thought I was going to go to court and get to tell my side of the story.”

Instead, he went to the Pearl River County Jail for more than three months.

“We have to balance a desire to make the victims whole” versus extracting punishment, Fisher said.