FOX 8 Defenders Investigation: Lakeview contractor arrested - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

FOX 8 Defenders Investigation: Lakeview contractor arrested

It was supposed to be Brittany Hembree and Tommy Nguyen's dream home in Lakeview. Instead, it turned into a construction nightmare.

The couple signed a $480,000 contract with Steven "Hunter" Estess more than two years ago to build their home on Fleur De Lis.

"We questioned him and said, 'where did the funds go? What happened to the house?' He kept saying it is going to be done soon, but as you can see the contract," said Nguyen.

"We started with Estess Aug 22 of 2012 and it has been a long, hectic process," said Hembree.

Their home is far from finished, and Hembree said poor construction of porches and steps and botched tile work will all have to be redone. On top of that, they said they've already paid Estess nearly the entire amount of their contract, but some sub-contractors haven't been paid.

Now, the couple has three separate liens on the home.

"I mean, just one lien alone is $10,000 plus attorneys and interest," Hembree said.

Estess was arrested in New Orleans and booked with issuing worthless checks. The next day, he was released on a $15,000 bond, but was re-arrested in St. Tammany Parish for forgery and issuing worthless checks.

Estess bonded out of jail again, this time on a $4,000 bond.

On Argonne Street, Robert Rowell said his construction problems with Hunter Estess started almost immediately.

"From the get-go, there were problems," he said. "They poured my slab more than a foot below flood."

Rowell said despite paying Estess most of his $616,000 contract, workers continued to complain that they weren't getting paid.

"It just kept going and going and he kept telling me things. It turns out, it's all lies," Rowell said.

Rowell began paying sub-contractors out of his own pocket to get work done on the house.

"I've paid more than likely $160,000 directly to the sub-contractors and suppliers for monies that he didn't pay from the money that I've given him," Rowell said.

The homeowners tell FOX 8, they're banding together and plan on taking their complaints to the district attorney.

"We've already spoken to an investigator at the DA's office, and we want to take everything to this one person as a united front so this investigation will see, this is a big deal," Rowell said.

One of the attorneys representing Estess Contractors said Hunter Estess is fully cooperating with investigators. He also said Estess turned himself in as soon as he learned he was wanted by police.

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