HARRIS COUNTY (Covering Katy News) - A building contractor who took advantage of his workers, suppliers, and clients was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing $180,000 from 26 different victims, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Monday.
“After Hurricane Harvey devastated a record number of residents along the Gulf Coast, we pledged to go after anyone who used the situation to hurt or defraud others,” Ogg said. “Prison time is the right result in a case like this because many of these people were cheated while the community was in its darkest hour.”
Benjamin Wood, 36, pleaded guilty Monday to ten years in prison. Because of a thorough investigation, Harris County prosecutors were able to combine the cases of more than two dozen victims to make sure Wood was convicted of a felony that would land him in prison.
Wood, who operated construction companies, had a long history of misdemeanor arrests for credit card abuse, theft and even wage theft from subcontractors. He was involved in schemes before Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 up until his arrest in 2019.
After the storm ravaged the area, Wood was able to dupe dozens of people into paying him for work he never did. He wrote dozens of bad checks to small builder supply companies, including mom-and-pop businesses, and to subcontractors on the few projects he actually started, but failed to complete.
“Hopefully examples like this will make other crooked contractors take notice and stop ripping off consumers,” Ogg said. “It’s important to remember that writing bad checks is theft. The fact that Wood received goods and services and the victims received a useless piece of paper is a serious offense.”
Sheila Hansel, the consumer fraud prosecutor who handled the case, said victims reported that Wood was able to gain their trust by talking about his military service and emphasizing that his company was “veteran owned.”
“Wood stole from everyone from his landlord to his employees by bouncing checks everywhere he could,” Hansel said. “He was just papering Harris and Montgomery Counties with bad checks written on closed accounts. He was very convincing, building trust with individuals so that they would take his checks for the materials he needed.”
Wood’s sentence will run concurrently with a ten year sentence he received in Montgomery County for similar crimes.