Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Blackwell

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 27, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
ERNEST R. BLACKWELL

          ON APPEAL FROM THE FORTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 56, 385, DIVISION "C" HONORABLE J. STERLING SNOWDY, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, ERNEST R. BLACKWELL Prentice L. White

          Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Robert A. Chaisson, and Stephen J. Windhorst

          STEPHEN J. WINDHORST JUDGE

         Defendant, Ernest R. Blackwell, seeks review of his conviction and sentence for the misdemeanor offense of home improvement fraud. For the following reasons, we affirm defendant's conviction, amend defendant's sentence and affirm the sentence as amended, and remand with instructions.

         Statement of the Case

         On November 4, 2013, the District Attorney for St. John the Baptist Parish filed a bill of information charging defendant, Ernest R. Blackwell, with the misdemeanor offense of home improvement fraud in violation of La. R.S. 14:202.1(A)(2). The State also filed a felony bill of information charging defendant with misapplication of payment by a contractor in an amount greater than one thousand dollars and engaging in business without a contractor's license. Defendant pled not guilty to all charges, and defendant's misdemeanor case was referred to the trial court's felony docket.

         On January 27, 2015, the State amended the aforementioned felony bill of information to add home improvement fraud as a third count. On September 15, 2015, the State nolle prossed the home improvement fraud count contained in the felony bill of information, concluding that home improvement fraud was in fact a misdemeanor violation under the alleged facts of the case. Given that the charges in both the felony and misdemeanor cases arose from the same relevant facts, the State elected to simultaneously try defendant's felony counts by jury and the instant misdemeanor charge by bench trial. Following the simultaneous jury/bench trial held on September 15, 2015, on December 28, 2015, the trial court issued written reasons finding defendant guilty of the misdemeanor offense of home improvement fraud.[1]

         On January 25, 2016, the trial court sentenced defendant on his home improvement fraud conviction to six months imprisonment without probation or suspension of sentence. After a restitution hearing, the trial court ordered defendant to pay $38, 900.00 in restitution to the Calmeses.

         Facts

         Defendant's convictions arise from repair work done for Thomas and Michelle Calmes. Mr. and Mrs. Calmes' home in LaPlace, Louisiana, was badly damaged in 2012 by Hurricane Isaac. In mid-September of 2012, Mr. and Mrs. Calmes hired defendant to perform repair work on their home because of his competitive quote, projected timeline, and "because he portrayed himself as a contractor who would do all the subcontracting" and supervise the work. According to Mrs. Calmes, defendant indicated that he was a licensed contractor able to perform all of her home repairs and that anything he was unable to do he would hire subcontractors to do. At trial, Mrs. Calmes testified that when meeting with defendant, he gave her a flyer indicating that he was with Professional Remodeling Specialists, aka "PRS, LLC" (PRS), which contained a license number (40025) indicating an association with "Dean Walters, Residential/Commerical State Licensed Contractor," as well as two email addresses, namely "eblackwell777@yahoo.com" and "professionalrspecialists@gmail.com." Mrs. Calmes explained that she would have never hired someone who was not a licensed contractor.

         Defendant personally presented Mr. and Mrs. Calmes with two contracts for repair work, which they both signed on October 11 and 13, 2012. The first contract pertained to all labor and materials for repairs to their home with a contract price of $82, 500.00, and the second was for roof repairs with a contract price of $12, 000.00. Mrs. Calmes testified that the company listed on the contract was "Dean Walters, d/b/a Professional Remodeling Specialists, LLC," license number 40025, and was signed on behalf of PRS by Keely Authement.[2] Defendant told the Calmeses that Ms. Authement was a company officer, that she signed all contracts, and that he and Dean Walters were co-owners of PRS. Mr. and Mrs. Calmes never met either Ms. Authement or Mr. Walters.

         Work began on the Calmeses' home on October 15, 2012. At trial, Mrs. Calmes explained that the repairs to her home would be financed by insurance money paid directly to her mortgage company, Wells Fargo, who would then release payment to her and her husband. Defendant, as the contractor/owner of PRS, signed a waiver of lien, required by Wells Fargo, related to his work on the project.

         Mrs. Calmes testified that she and her husband paid defendant approximately $55, 000.00. An October 18, 2012 check from Mrs. Calmes' personal bank account was written out to PRS and was endorsed for deposit by Ms. Authement. An October 25, 2012 check, issued by Wells Fargo, was made out to PRS and the Calmeses. Mrs. Calmes testified that she and her husband, along with defendant and Ms. Authement, endorsed the check. A November 8, 2012 check, also issued by Wells Fargo, was made out to PRS and the Calmeses. The Calmeses and only defendant endorsed this check. The last check, dated December 7, 2012, from Wells Fargo was made out to PRS and the Calmeses. The Calmeses endorsed this check and gave it to defendant.

         Mrs. Calmes recalled that once work commenced, there were problems with the sheetrock, paint, the wood flooring, and the kitchen and bathroom tile. She explained that defendant was difficult to contact, and that his subcontractors complained that defendant was not paying them for their work. Mrs. Calmes testified that while the contract stated that the price included labor and materials, the Calmeses spent approximately $8, 000.00 of their own money purchasing materials at defendant's request. Defendant told the Calmeses that he would reimburse them for their purchases but he never did.

         Mrs. Calmes further testified that she and her husband selected cabinets and countertops from John Sun Kitchen and Bath (John Sun) as part of the repairs to be made to their home and that defendant only paid a portion of the money owed to John Sun, claiming that the cabinets had not been installed correctly. According to Mrs. Calmes, defendant was aware that money was owed for the cabinets and informed the Calmeses that it would be ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.