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Contractor falsely claiming he’s a veteran arrested for taking customer’s money

A popular website for finding contractors doesn’t verify if a business is actually owned by a veteran.
A popular website for finding contractors doesn’t verify if a business is actually owned by a veteran.
Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 5:38 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2022 at 6:49 PM EST
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MATTHEWS, N.C. (WBTV) - A local contractor convinced customers to hire him by talking up his military service, but court record show he’s not a veteran at all.

WBTV’s investigation raises questions about what you can do as a consumer to make sure you’re actually hiring a veteran. Both customers WBTV spoke with said the company claimed it was veteran-owned on a popular website for finding contractors.

Bill Rhoades and Chris Ballance were looking to hire someone for some basic concrete work. They ended up contracting with Premier Concrete and Jimmy Harris.

They both found Harris through HomeAdvisor powered by Angi and the website said Premier Concrete was a veteran-owned business.

“I’ve used them (HomeAdvisor) before, reasonably decent results, but this particular time it went south pretty quickly,” Balance said.

For Rhoades, much of the work was done but never completed.

“Little fishing pieces on the retaining wall, but it’s attention to detail and then complete the mission,” Rhoades said.

Balance paid $8,400 for a deposit but nothing ever got started.

Ballance filed a lawsuit against Harris and Premier Concrete in small claims court. It’s there where Balance filed records showing Harris never served in the military and both Rhoades and Balance said Harris’ own mother confirmed in court he was not a veteran.

“Mom just interjected in with ‘he never served a day in his life’,” Balance said.

Rhoades served in Desert Storm and hiring a contractor who claimed he was a veteran was an added bonus.

“I stepped off the plane December 24th, 1991 in Desert Storm and Jimmy was like, well, ‘I served over in Afghanistan’ and then he said ‘I had so many confirmed kills.’”

“And then later on he said, yeah, ‘I got the Bronze Star’ and then I was like blown away when I come to find out that Jimmy hadn’t served in the military,” Rhoades said.

Harris never showed for the court hearing and just last week, Ballance successfully got a warrant for Harris’ arrest on charges that Ballance paid for the work but got nothing in return.

On Saturday Harris was arrested in Gaston County.

WBTV tried calling Harris and Premier Concrete, numerous times but we never heard back from him.

WBTV also reached out to HomeAdvisor to ask about their process for verifying whether a business owner is a veteran.

In an email a spokesperson wrote attributes like veteran-owned on their website are “self-attested; however, if a homeowner raises an issue regarding this or anything else we look into the matter.”

The Department of Veteran Affairs has its own verification system for veteran owned businesses called Vets First Verification Program.

The program primarily allows veteran owned businesses to compete for government contracts but also is a seal of verification for consumers.

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Rhoades said he just wanted to hire someone to get the job done right but hiring someone who had been in the military was an added bonus.

“I could care less whether you do or not,” Rhoades said. “The thing that got to me was he claimed he had served and he hadn’t.”

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