Luling man accuses contractor of fraud, misuse of funds
As St. Charles Parish resident and native Andy Rougeou and his wife Toni look upon what they say was once a beautiful home on 3 West Levert Dr. in Willowdale subdivision, he wonders if it will ever be close to what it once was.
He certainly never thought hiring a contractor to build an addition to his home would put him in a position where he feared for his life and for that of his family, but now he faces that dilemma daily, he said.
On June 15, Steve Brondum was arrested by the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office for allegedly threatening Rougeou after he filed a formal complaint with the Louisiana Contractor Licensing Board about the quality of his work.
“Not only has this guy destroyed our property, stole our money and stole our dreams, now we’re having to live in fear while he’s trying to take our freedom,” Rougeou said of the incident.
Brondum says he never once threatened Rougeou or his family and only called the Willowdale homeowner after he found out Rougeou was checking up on Brondum’s previous work.
“He called one of my clients, they called and told me, and I called him (Rougeou) and told him that the case was under litigation and he should take the right steps while it is being investigated,” Brondum said. “He screamed and yelled at me and then I got a call from the police.”
In November Rougeou hired Steve Brondum of Steve Brondum, LLC to complete a 1,300 square foot addition to his home but as he sifts though thousands of dollars worth of invoices that he paid the contractor along with pictures of the finished product which included a crooked slab, unfinished doors and molding and a waterlogged ceiling, all of which he alledges were the fault of Brondum from sub-standard work he performed.
After paying Brondum more than $41,787 to complete the renovation, Rougeou said he had nothing more than a crooked slab, busted plumbing and a $300,000 house that was exposed to the elements for months.
“It’s the worse slab that anybody has ever seen is all that any contractor who comes out to look it says,” Rougeou said. “He had no idea how to do a slab. He didn’t do a footing, he framed it up with plywood and it broke everywhere. All the concrete just poured into the yard.”
Rougeau said the slab, which should be level, has dips in it as deep as six inches, which causes water to pool on sections of the slab.
Brondum admitted that the slab suffered a couple of blowouts when they were pouring it which caused it to be uneven in places but he was trying to rectify the situation before Rougeou said he had enough and fired him from the job.
“Mistakes happen all the time in this work,” Brondum said. “But everything was fixable. I was in the process of fixing it before he fired me.”
Rougeou also claims that when it rains, water comes through sections of the roof that Brondum cut and left open while working on the house.
“He just cut holes into my roof without making a proper roof line,” Rougeou said. “Now when it rains it just comes in the house constantly.”
On top of the money he said he’s already paid Brondum, Rougeou has had to front another $30,000 out of his own pocket in an attempt to get the house in a condition where his property is of some value again.
“I can’t do a loan on my house, I can’t get it appraised, I can’t do anything with my property,” he said. “I’m having to come out of pocket for all of this.”
Rougeou claimed that even Brondum’s liability insurance company refused to pay on the work that was done to his home.
“They said they won’t pay to repair clueless work,” Rougeou said.
Rougeou hired contractor Ray Hymel in an attempt to salvage what he’s able to of the work already completed on his home, but it’s certainly not going to be an easy or inexpensive task, he said.
“Whoever laid the slab didn’t have a clue about what they were doing,” Hymel said. “I don’t think we have any roads in the parish which are that bad.
“To me this guy [Brondum] didn’t have a clue what he was doing. When you frame with half-inch plywood there’s something seriously wrong with you. I’ve been in this business for 25 years and I’ve never seen anything screwed up quite like this.”
St. Charles Assistant District Attorney Kim Mcelwee said they have received complaints about Brondum and are currently investigating him for contractor fraud.
Some people put their life savings into something like this only to have to tear it all up and start all over again,” Mcelwee said. “We’re not talking about someone who just doesn’t like the color of the walls either. It’s horrible.”
While Mcelwee said this isn’t the type of case that is common in St. Charles, her office is working with other parishes in Louisiana such as St. Tammany who have had experience in handling cases involving contractor fraud.
For the time being, Mcelwee and the district attorney’s office are keeping an eye on the Brondum case and hope that anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of contractor fraud to come forward.
“If we’ve got contractors here who are not completing their work we don’t want them here,” Mcelwee said. “They need to go.”
Rougeou said the only reason he told his story is to hopefully help someone not go through the same ordeal he’s been dealing with.
“The only thing I’m trying to get out of this now is to warn other people so this doesn’t happen to them,” he said. “I don’t want to see anybody else’s lives turned upside down by a contractor like ours have been.”
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