Mississippi Crime of the Week – Home Repair Fraud

Mississippi made home repair fraud a distinct crime in 2003, and refined the law in 2006 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

In order to convict you of home repair fraud, the state must prove that you contracted with someone (written or oral) to repair their home, and you knowingly:

  1. Misrepresented a material fact relating to the terms of the contract or agreement or the preexisting or existing condition of any portion of the property involved, or created or confirmed another’s impression which is false and which he does not believe to be true, or promised performance which he does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed;
  2. Used or employed any deception, false pretense or false promise in order to induce, encourage or solicit a person to enter into any contract or agreement;
  3. Misrepresented or concealed your real name, or the name of your business or your business address; or
  4. Used deception, coercion or force to obtain the victim’s consent to modification of the terms of the original contract or agreement;

or you

Damaged the property of a person with the intent to enter into an agreement or contract for home repair;

or you

Misrepresented yourself or someone else to be an employee or agent of any unit of the federal, state or municipal government or any other governmental unit, or an employee or agent of any public utility, with the intent to cause a person to enter into, with himself or another, any contract or agreement for home repair.

Miss. Code Ann. § 97-23-103. 

 

What does “home repair” include?

Home repair includes the “construction, installation, replacement or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, porches, kitchens, chimneys, chimney liners, garages, fences, fallout shelters, central air conditioning, central heating, boilers, furnaces, hot water heaters, electrical wiring, sewers, plumbing fixtures, storm doors, storm windows, awnings, carpets and other improvements to structures within the residence or upon the land adjacent thereto.”  In other words, just about everything having to do with fixing a home.

 

What is exempt from the definition of home repair?

  1. Sale of goods or materials by a merchant;
  2. the repair, installation, replacement or connection of any home appliance, including, but not limited to, disposals, refrigerators, ranges, garage door openers, television antennas, washing machines, telephones or other home appliances when the person replacing, installing, repairing or connecting such home appliance is an employee or agent of the merchant that sold the home appliance; and
  3. landscaping.

 

What are the punishments for home repair fraud?

If the fraud amounts to less than $5000.00:

  1. A first offense is a misdemeanor, and shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00, or imprisonment not to exceed six months, or both.
  2. A second or subsequent conviction is punished as follows:
    1. If the amount of the fraud is between $1000.00 – $5000.00, it becomes a felony, and is punishable by imprisonment not to exceed two years.
    2. If the amount of the fraud is less than $1000.00, it remains a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months.

If the fraud amounts to over $5000.00, it is a felony, and is punished as follows:

  1. If the amount is between $5000.00 – $10,000.00, by imprisonment not to exceed five years or a fine not to exceed $10,000.00, or both.
  2. If the amount is over $10,000.00, by  imprisonment not to exceed ten years or a fine not to exceed Ten Thousand Dollars.

In addition to all of these punishments, you will be ordered to make restitution to the victim (to pay them back).  This amount will not be due while you are incarcerated unless the judge determines you have the money to pay it immediately.  Once you get out, however, you must make the payments or it may be cause for your probation or suspended sentence to be revoked.

The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office is very interested in home repair fraud – it calls its fight against home repair fraud “Operation Hammerstrike,” and keeps a list of arrests on the state website.  The overwhelming majority of these arrests and prosecutions have occurred along the coast.  I maintain a statewide criminal defense practice, and I am networked with a group of very effective and experienced criminal defense lawyers across the state.  If you get dealt a blow by “Operation Hammerstrike,” give me a call at 601-991-1099.  I will either help you myself, or we’ll find you an aggressive attorney close to you that will help you with your case.