Dennie Joe Huddleston.jpg

More criminal charges have piled up against a West Monroe contractor named in an April lawsuit for converting victims’ money for his own personal use.

Ouachita Parish sheriff’s investigators arrested Dennie J. Huddleston on Oct. 5 on warrants charging him with two counts of felony theft. He was booked into Ouachita Correctional Center with bail set at $40,000 on each count. He was released the same day of his arrest.

Huddleston, 60, had previously been arrested by investigators on a May 22 warrant that charged him with contractor’s misapplication of payments. He was released on a $10,000 bail at that time.

The latest two charges against Huddleston, according to investigators, occurred in early 2017. One case involved money he borrowed from an individual to help develop a large plot of land he bought earlier in western Ouachita Parish.

Sheriff’s investigators said Huddleston formed a relationship with the victim who would lend him money as he needed it. Before getting any money, Huddleston would have to provide a draw request detailing where the money would be spent.

On Feb. 17, 2017, Huddleston submitted a draw request form for $205,360.02, listing a number of vendors including a land clearing company, insurance company and apparently a company owned by him.

“After learning of several complaints filed against Huddleston and not being paid back loaned money, the victim began researching his transactions with Huddleston,” investigators wrote. “His research showed that the $49,097.99 to Home Improvement Outlet was simply a quote Huddleston had requested. Huddleston never purchased any of the listed items, meaning the $8,500 in labor for the work to be done with those items was likely never done.”

Home Improvement Outlet provided investigators with a copy of a check for $49,097.99 but noted the money was split into “62 separate outstanding accounts Huddleston was responsible for” at the store. Some $33,000 for labor and material was not used at West Feed Mill nor $13,000 to Southern Pipe because “they knew of Huddleston’s reputation and refused to do business with him,” according to investigators.

On the second charge, investigators said Huddleston deployed a similar scheme by submitting a draw form to another victim who loaned him money. Huddleston, according to investigators’ arrest warrant affidavit, submitted a draw request form and quote from Specialty Lumber for $36,760.03 for materials related to stone products and $20,000 for labor, bringing the total to $56,760.03.

The victim later learned that Specialty Lumber did not carry any stone products and never had. Detectives stated that Huddleston used a blank quote sheet, which was recognized by the Specialty Lumber owner as one that he (the owner) often passes out as a business card. He would always write “BBB Accredited A+ Rating.” The owner said it was his way of knowing for sure which sheets were actual quotes and which ones were not.

Huddleston was previously arrested in May. Court records from the arrest showed that Huddleston, who has an Eros address, and the victim entered into a contract in July 2018 agreeing that the victim would be financially responsible for labor and materials that would be provided by Huddleston or his representatives to build a house on Arkansas Road in West Monroe.

The records show that in October 2018 a draw request was made by Huddleston to the victim that consisted of 12 different payment descriptions totaling $227,285. One items listed was for a deposit of $7,500 for some custom screens from Smith Blinds. The victim approved all the items and wrote a check for the entire $227,285.

In January 2019, Huddleston, the victim and another individual met to discuss the construction, which had then exceeded cost expectations. Also discussed was work completed and where draw money had been spent. It was discovered then that Smith Blinds still had not received its deposit, the report showed, and it was agreed that Smith Blinds would be paid immediately.

On April 1, the victim received an invoice from Smith Blinds totaling $15,875 of which $7,375 was due.

“This was the same money Huddleston received in the draw back in October of 2018, but he never paid,” the report stated, and the victim paid Smith Blinds on April 2 “essentially for a second time.”

Investigators with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office reported they checked with the other vendors to confirm current payments and all checked out except Russell Moore Lumber. The victim had to pay the lumber company nearly $30,000.

As previously reported by The Ouachita Citizen, a West Monroe couple filed a lawsuit in April against Huddleston, Guaranty Bank & Trust and two of the bank’s employees, claiming their money and properties were wrongfully converted for the defendants’ benefit.

Michael and Ellyn Langston filed the lawsuit in Fourth Judicial District Court claiming the defendants Guaranty Bank and its employees, William “Bill” Crawford and Stacey McFarlin, and Huddleston were responsible for the couple’s profound financial losses.

According to the lawsuit, the Langstons’ claims for damages stemmed from work performed by a spec home business co-owned by Michael Langston and Huddleston’s son, Joshua Huddleston. Spec homes, or speculative homes, are houses built before a buyer has been secured for the property. Michael Langston and Joshua Huddleston built the spec homes as LH Group LLC. When Langston and Joshua Huddleston built spec homes, they hired Dennie Huddleston as the contractor or builder.

The lawsuit claimed that Dennie Huddleston possibly pledged $200,000 in profits from the sale of one of those spec homes to pay a court judgment in a separate lawsuit in which he was involved.

McFarlin, a bank employee, was responsible for inspecting building sites to determine whether sufficient work was completed to warrant a draw on the loan by the contractor, according to the lawsuit. She evaluated draw requests on the spec homes while in a relationship with Huddleston and received gifts from him, the lawsuit claimed.

Since the filing of the suit, the defendants have filed answers denying any alleged wrongdoing and preemptory exceptions of no cause of action, no right of action and prescription.

A hearing on motions is scheduled for Nov. 21 before Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wilson Rambo.

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