A local man was arrested and is the subject of a second investigation after a FOX 8 Defenders special report. In this follow-up, the Defenders have learned investigators on both sides of the river are focused on Cornelius Washington.
The St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office says it's investigating two complaints against Southern Storm Products and two of its stakeholders, Cornelius Washington of Ascension Parish and Donyale Andrews of Kenner. A FOX 8 Defenders report in July revealed the company allegedly took money from at least two homeowners in Violet for work they never even started.
John Bailey signed a contract with Andrews and Washington nearly nine months ago and hired Southern Storm to install storm screens around his home. "He [Washington] asked for $4,000. I gave him the check and he... he just never came back," explained Bailey.
"I wrote him [Washington] a check for half of the money you know, and that was it. That was the last time I seen him, first and last time," said Karen Hill.
Hill's mom has storm screens, but they're not the new, stronger ones she says she paid for in February. Hill gave Washington a $2500 deposit to better protect her mother's home.
While St. Bernard Parish authorities actively investigate Southern Storm, the FOX 8 Defenders have learned Washington was arrested for a similar theft we reported in Plaquemines Parish. The Plaquemines Sheriff's Office says Washington was arrested August 6 on a felony warrant for one count of theft of assets of an aged person.
Like Bailey in St. Bernard, an elderly Belle Chasse homeowner is also out $4,000 for the deposit she gave Washington in December 2011 to install storm screens and doors. All three checks to Washington and Southern Storm Products together equal $10,500, and that's federal recovery money granted to homeowners through the Road Home program.
The Plaquemines District Attorney says Washington bonded out of jail and is set to appear in a Plaquemines courtroom on September 10 for arraignment. If he's found guilty, DA Charles Ballay says the penalty for the theft includes jail time up to 10 years.
FOX 8 reached Washington by phone for the first time in two months Friday. He said Southern Storm struggled to survive and shut down, and that he's looking for employment. He says his intention is to install the screens or refund them.
The FOX 8 Defenders will continue to follow this story.