BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana man who founded Cajun Navy 2016, a volunteer flotilla renowned for rapidly responding to natural disasters, has been arrested on a charge he defrauded a customer who hired him to rebuild a home.
Jon Bridgers, 47, of Walker, was freed from jail on $10,000 bond after his arrest Wednesday on a charge of residential contractor fraud, according to his attorney, Philip House.
Bridgers’ group received national recognition for rescuing Texas residents from Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters last year. He was one of President Donald Trump’s guests at his State of the Union address in January.
A homeowner told investigators from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office that Bridgers didn’t complete the job after getting paid more than $50,000, according to an investigator’s report. The homeowner said he hired Bridgers in October 2016 to rebuild his house and gave him a $15,000 down payment, the first of several payments before the homeowner hired someone else to finish the job, the report says.
In a statement released by his lawyer, Bridgers said he didn’t defraud anyone. He blamed his arrest on a “miscommunication” and said he had tried to amicably resolve a “contractual dispute.”
“My entire life I’ve built a reputation of being a man of my word,” he said. “My focus remains on the work the Cajun Navy is doing every day to be prepared to respond to the next disaster, wherever it may be.”
Neither Bridgers nor his company, Bridgers Construction, has ever been licensed through the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors, according to the investigator’s report.