What is this?

Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

Map of Southeaster United States

This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

Background on the towns and this project is available under the about tab above.

Click here for bios of the reporters and media producers who have worked on the series.

How you can help

RSS 

Get the latest stories, journal entries and images via RSS subscription.

Of the dozens of building contractors punished by the state of Mississippi for preying on victims of Hurricane Katrina, one stands out from the crowd of mostly small-time, fly-by-night operators: Call Henry, a Florida-based firm with hundreds of employees that each year earns tens of millions of dollars from contracts with the Department of Defense, NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The company boasts on its Web site about its rosy prospects for new federal business. But at the same time, it has closed up shop in the hurricane zone and is ignoring customers there who say that their homes are falling apart after Call Henry repaired or rebuilt them. The state Attorney General's Office is considering launching a criminal investigation against the firm. And the company is appealing a $10,000 fine that the Mississippi State Board of Contractors levied after finding that Call Henry exhibited “gross negligence or misconduct” in its contracting business.

“They shafted people right and left,” said a sobbing Mary Bobbitt of Waveland, Miss., who hired Call Henry to fix her three-bedroom, one-bath ranch-style home after it was inundated by Katrina’s deadly flood tide. “They came in from Florida thinking they could make a whole bunch of money and then they left. They just left us.”

Click here to read complete story.

MAIN PAGE NEXT POST Much accomplished; much to be done

Email this EMAIL THIS

34 COMMENTS

This story just makes me sick, the nerve of these companies taking advantage of people struggeling with a destroyed and devastating situation. I hope these companies get what they deserve. I think they should pay back all the money and than some, call it a donation of good will, which they obviously have none. I think they should also have their contracts with the government ripped up! Why should they make millions of dollars a year while other people are suffering and they are taking advantage of them, it's just sick!

This is outrageous and unbelieveable. But of course, the Federal Government is still using these guys. I can't believe that while the state won't grant these guys a license the Federal Government can still use them!

How shameful - just another example of people taking advantage of others rather than coming together and working things through.

I wish Falgout all the success in the world on getting these guys!

Sad as this may be, more often than not, the buyer got exactly what they paid for. Consumers generally take that all important lowest bid and then complain about that wicked ole contractor. Would you really buy steaks for $1.29/lb when most places are charging $6.99/lb? Yet, the low bid is most often the successful sell. Remember the old adage, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." Surely, even inexperienced people would have recognized the quality of at least some of the work while it was under construction, if they had looked. Don't get me wrong, there are some really bad contractors, but not nearly as many as these type of stories would have you believe. Do your homework before you sign someone up to do the work.

For the future use small decent and knowledgable contractors, who are hands on, on the job, with whom you can speak every day at your house, and resolve your problems. Find and use hard working people directly. Avoid the big add's and websites, publicity with word's like "FREE".....there you can already recognice it's trap to come. You need to do your research better, and learn to listen to your instincts, and before you sign a big contract observe first a smal asigned job for a couple of days to see how it evolves. Only if you like it than you continue.

I can sympathize in a small way with these folks. Just three months after my father unexpectedly died, we were fleeced by a plumbing company that capitalized on another more famous chain's name. They were the most highly advertised and had a fleet of vans (which turned out to be just incompetent local subcontractors allowed to use their logo), promising quality work, 'electronic leak detection', and immediate service. They charged $3,000 worth of labor(we had to supply the fixtures, and do the flooring, painting and drywall repair ourselves as it wasn't included) to gut our only bathroom because they said the tub was cracked (we found after they cut it out with a saw that it was not). After they installed the new fixtures incorrectly (they didn't even follow the manufacturer's directions), still failing to fix the leak, we had to pull everything out and reinstall it all...and we found the leak ourselves...a 3" piece of copper tubing and 30 minutes work. They never even looked for the leak. We were over a month with no working bath/shower for a family of four, they never sent the same workers, the ones they sent would arrive, do nothing and then leave on same lame excuse and take several days to send someone back. We found later that they had a horrible reputation, yet they continue to thrive because of their aggressive advertising. Their PR guy said they 'would make things right' with us and promised refunds, but all they ever sent was a coupon for the next job and stopped answering our calls. Already dealing with the grief from the loss of a loved one, we all had that powerless, violated feeling to deal with as well. But that's insignficant in comparison to what people deal with post-Katrina. I can only imagine what it must be like to have that level of frustration magnifide...to lose everything you own to an act of nature and have someone come in and prey on your tragedy like that is just reprehensible. We had no functional bathroom for over a month, yet these poor people have had no safe home for going on two years now. My boyfriends' dad is a building contractor and I know there are good ones like him out there, but shysters like this Call Henry give their whole profession a bad name.

$10,000 fine,great. The state should also be held liable for not investigating these complaints.Where was the oversite by the state?

My sister in New Orleans got shafted by her contractor also. It is so sad. All these people cared about is making a quick buck.

Reading about this just makes me angry. I know there is so much yet to be done and when you read about things like this it just makes you want to go and help these families all the more. My husband's family lives in Gulfport. We've been to the gulf coast 4 or 5 times to work and have taken several others with us to work down there. We have people who are still wanting to go with us. Everytime we go down makes me want to be able to just stay and help. I don't know what makes people tick that do the things like this company has done to the families that have already had one of the most devastating events in history happen to them. I hope that justice is given and these people who've filed suit win. We had many people come up to us when we'd be working down there and say they just don't understand how people like us give up a vacation and come down and help people they don't know. Others told us that they didn't know where they'd be if it hadn't been for the volunteers and thanked us so much for coming and not forgetting them. The important thing is to not forget them and to keep sending down volunteers. they make a HUGE difference!

The Govenor of Mississippi should be standing on the top platform of a gallows, with rope in hand, and loudly proclaim " CALL HENRY!".

Why does the Govt. make things so hard. Just put the old crook and the family he has behing bars! There is ample evidence of his crooked ways, yet nothing really serious is being done to put him behind bars! Do you think fining him $10,000 is going to make him loose any sleep? He made that several 100 times over with the people he swindled. Wow what a screwed up criminal system we have. All of this is the fault of the Govt. and it also maybe our fault, because we just see these kind of things happening, or we read about them but we do nothing. Oh well.

As residents of Waveland, Ms. whose house had water into the ceiling of the first floor, my heart bleeds for these people and I would like to see Call Henry tarred and feathered first THEN put i jail for a very long time. There were and still are a lot of sharks down here scamming money from people but the situation is improving.

My wife and I jumped at he chance to hire someone who could "get right on it" and got a job done that was sloppy at best. The problem was that if we had waited to get a "good" contractor to perform the work, we'd still be breathing formadahyde in a FEMA trailer. We are gradually getting the shoddy work redone as we can but happily living at home again. I hope they give this guy Henry major jail time.

oh my God what a sick person this is , How is the world could you do this to people in there time of need? I hope you bussiness goes under you toke from these people and now you wont nothing to do with them , REMEMBER WHAT COMES AROUND GOES AROUND , in todays world all I see is people stealing from people in need, someone needs to go after this company and put a end to them . I live in florida have all my
life and this person give us good people a bad name . I hope all these familes get there money back and there homes fixed Asap , I am truly sorry this happened to them .

bring back the old days of tar and feathering for bunkos like this!

This is how the government protects its citizens. I was in Waveland six months after Katrina to help where I could. During my three months there I met so many people who were there to make as much money as they could, many not delivering on their contracts. From my understanding this happens in many disaster zones. The ten thousand dollar fine is letting the contractors off easy. The government needs to strenghten and enforce laws to protect those trying to rebuild. It is a sad state of humanity to allow this type of crime to occur.

Great story and I'm glad you brought it to light! My construction company filed a mega pile of paperwork trying to help with the Katrina rebuilding to no avail. We pride ourselves with top notch workmanship at very reasonable prices and no one would even bother to call us. At the cost of sounding like a sales person here, we really would have done a great job for these people but all of the jobs seemed to go to "buddies" or "friends" of the Bush administration. It's really just a shame how some people wanted the work, some people wanted some quality work done and the government just haphazardly shoveled out millions of dollars without doing their due diligence.

God will exact vengeance on them. Every one of them. It doesnt pay to be a thief or liar. Short term gain will only bring long term sorrow. How these guys can look in the mirror is beyond me. Pray for them because they need it. I am a contractor and I survive by treating people right. Its the only way!

Thank g-d our country is going in the crapper because after it is all done and said there will be a price and it will be in spades. I assume We The People, means that at some point we will take this country back from the ruinous hole of depravity and ill gotten gains and rebuild this country for the people and not the bottom feeders.

Find out which politicians this company bankrolled and start investigating them, Dollar Bill can't be the only scum bag floating in those backwaters.

the feds are again to blame for the fleecing of America.they do not investigate any contractors who they hire and when reports come to their attention they do nothing to stop them from being awarded new contracts.So if you want to get a pass get a government contract

The governor of Mississippi is not, nor will be on the side of the middle class in this state. He is all for the rich (notice he backed the sending home rebuilding funds to the revitalize the big-business fund. Just another example of regular people having NO recourse when it comes to being screwed!

Because "Call Henry Inc" is a Floridian Corporation since 1990, Henry Foster, an officer, will not be personally liable for any financial losses that have resulted. Call Henry Inc registered as a Foreign corporation in both Mississippi and Louisiana on 10/17/2005, but has requested withdrawal from Louisiana.

I do not understand why the FBI and DHS have not been involved in bringing in federal criminal charges. By crossing state lines, taking FEMA monies, etc, this should easily be investigated as a federal offense. Since Henry Foster himself came into Mississippi for the sale, Foster should be charged with crossing state lines to commit fraud.

With the NASA program coming to an end, expect Call Henry Inc to file bankruptcy in the near future. Action needs to be taken quickly.

Speaking as a FORMER small contractor, the people, insurance companies and state governments affected by the hurricane Katrina disaster got EXACTLY what they deserved! All of those people looked at the money that the insurance companies and FEDERAL and STATE governments were giving to them and then turned around and attempted to DEFRAUD the insurance and government by hiring the lowest bidder to fix up their homes so that they could keep all that, significant, extra money in their own pockets. If you hire the lowest bidder for a job you are going to get the LOWEST quality work. The lowest bidders are able to bid low because they pay low wages. You do NOT get qualified people to work for you by paying low wages. In general, in the construction contracting field, the VAST MAJORITY of workers on any given jobsite are ILLEGAL immigrants who have NO SKILLS in the job that they are doing. I have NO sympathy for these people at all. They ALL got EXACTLY what they paid for.
It is because of the lowest bidder mentality in America that I left the construction contracting field and moved on to a more relaxing job where I ACTUALLY have money left over at the end of the month for myself. In America today ONLY the WORST contractors can make any money. The contractors who play by the rules and abide by the laws are unable to win the bids that would keep them in business. So, the next time you hire the lowest bidder and provide incentive and money to fund illegal immigration, look in the mirror and complain to yourself. Those of us who have the knowledge, experiance and ability who abide by the rules and laws cost a bit more than the lowest bidder.

The fact the anybody is surprised that this would happen is deluded. Our own govt. has botched this whole disaster since the beginning, and everyone forgets with time except for the people who first hand experienced this tragedy. It is a sad world we live in when we are more focused on helping anybody in a different country rather than our own citizens, it is disgusting for me to see it happen but it does.

I worked for this company and think they are wonderful. I'm not aware of what they did in Louisiana but while I worked for them, I never saw any signs of inappropriateness in their business dealings.

Ten-to-one, Call Henry will receive a Meritorius Service award from the federal government before all this is over.

Comments for this post have been closed.

TRACKBACKS

Trackbacks are links to weblogs that reference this post. Like comments, trackbacks do no appear until approved by us. The trackback URL for this post is: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b0aa69e200e55179aa1c8834

More Rising from Ruin

Story tips?