Jon Bridgers, founder of Cajun Navy 2016 and an invited guest at the president's State of the Union address in January, was arrested Wednesday on a contractor fraud accusation.
The 47-year-old Bridgers, of Walker, had agreed to repair a home in East Baton Rouge Parish in October of 2016 for $47,000, but never finished the work, according to the arrest report. He offered to repay the homeowner the outstanding balance, but the homeowner ultimately said he wanted Bridgers arrested.
Bridgers, of 37580 John Lanier Road, was booked Wednesday in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on a count of residential contractor fraud and was released the same day on a $10,000 bond.
On Thursday, he released a statement through his attorney maintaining his innocence.
After the Baton Rouge area floods of 2016, Bridgers started one of the unofficial, volunteer networks of civilian boat owners involved in rescue efforts during the flood. When Hurricane Harvey struck southwest Louisiana and east Texas, Bridgers used a Facebook group to pitch in once again.
President Donald Trump later invited Bridgers to his first State of the Union address in January as a representative of the Cajun Navy.
During the investigation into the alleged contractor fraud, officials from the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors told deputies that neither Bridgers nor his company, Bridgers Construction, have ever been licensed through the board — a requirement for jobs over $7,500. When deputies confronted Bridgers about this, he said he was unaware he was required to get the license, the arrest report says.
After Bridgers worked on the home on and off for a year and received $51,297 for the work, more than the contract price, the homeowner told Bridgers that he was going to hire another contractor to finish the work, according to the arrest report.
When deputies interviewed Bridgers in April, Bridgers said the homeowner initially had told him time wasn't an issue when they made the agreement and he told the homeowner the job would take a while because he had other projects. He said he wanted to make the situation right with the homeowner and initially offered to repay him $3,200, which would include counter tops that were not installed, according to the arrest report.
The homeowner said the $3,200 was not enough money, first saying he paid a second contractor $5,500 to finish Bridgers's work and then saying it cost $17,400, according to the arrest report. The homeowner demanded Bridgers reimburse him by 5 p.m. on May 8 and would only provide receipts for the cost to Bridgers after receiving the reimbursement.
Bridgers told a deputy on the evening on May 8 that he obtained the full $17,400 for the homeowner, so the deputy scheduled a meeting for the next day. The homeowner, however, told the deputy he no longer wanted the money because it was past the deadline and he wanted Bridgers arrested.
Maintaining his innocence in a statement through his attorney, Philip House, Bridgers called the situation a "contractual dispute" that is the "result of miscommunication, not fraud."
"I attempted to amicably resolve what is a contractual dispute," Bridgers said in the statement.
"Since August of 2016 I have humbly sacrificed countless hours helping neighbors and communities in need whether in Louisiana, Texas or Florida. The Cajun Navy is a nationwide movement and I’m proud to play a small part. 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. Your prayers are appreciated."