JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Debra Zane of Northeast Jackson holds piles of contracts she entered into with former home remodeler Benjamin White dating back to 2008. She said she has paid big money, but much of the work sits undone. There's an electric gate that's never been installed and a fountain that's not anywhere near complete.
"If he was gonna charge me $8,800 it should have included a finished fountain," she said.
Zane said there's more unfinished work at several of her other properties. The homeowner claimed she's shelled out more than $240,000 and still owes White $20,000 and is appalled at the quality of work.
"I feel he misrepresented himself as an architect, misrepresented the work he could do," she said.
Turns out, in September of last year, White was convicted of accepting more than $53,000 for repair work that he never completed. Authorities said he was given the cash to buy materials and work on a home in Canton, but the work done was of substantially less value.
Despite all of these troubles, White continued looking for new work.
WLBT found him on the web. He's now operating a business called Deck Pros in Brandon. We also found him over the weekend at the Home and Outdoor Living Extravaganza at the Mississippi Trademart. He told us he's not the type of person that would engage in illegal business practices, and his conviction is on appeal.
White was ordered to pay $37,500 in restitution and spend 15 days in jail. Most of his six-month jail sentence was suspended. He told us since his case is on appeal, he hasn't paid or completed his jail time. There's no stipulation of his conviction that said he can't operate a remodeling business.
But, White is no longer a licensed contractor, so according to Attorney General Jim Hood, who prosecuted him, White can't enter into any single contract over $10,000.
"Assuming most of the decks he builds are under $10,000, he's probably operating within the law," Hood said.
However, Attorney General Hood plans to probe further into White's business, specifically the contracts he has with Zane.
The Mississippi Home Builders Association, which puts on the Home and Outdoor Living Extravaganza, said, "We regret any situation where fraud has occurred, and do not condone unprofessional and illegal business practices in any way. Consumers are reminded to use contractors that are licensed and insured. Mississippi law does not require residential contractors to carry insurance, and it is not customary to pay the contractor before work is performed. The Home Builders Association of Mississippi will continue to review policies and initiatives to protect the public from fraud."
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