By Morgan Thomas - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A Wells businessman accused of taking advantage of tornado victims claims he is being singled out because of his criminal background.
Jason Lynn McKnight, 42, said in a posted comment in a previous story on KTRE.com that he has "performed over 65 contracts and tarp services for peoples houses and asked for no money and was willing to wait for the insurance claims."
In a Tuesday interview with KTRE, McKnight said he was only trying to help the victims.
"I thought we were really helping people, but the city and the police had a different idea," he said.
Those different opinions led to the arrest of McKnight, owner of Wells Siding and Roofing, on Monday.
"I've done nothing wrong," McKnight said. "We haven't taken one red penny from nobody."
They got busy right after the tornado, McKnight said.
"We had 60 employees out here on the 23rd working through the Christmas holiday," he said. "We were so far ahead of the contractors. We had all the jobs."
He believes it was that go-getter attitude and his criminal background that instigated authorities to look into his actions.
"Several years ago I got in some trouble," he said. "Mishandles some trust funds in Beaumont. I never took people's money. I got in trouble over materials."
McKnight thinks rumors started flying, scaring his customers. Calls started coming into the city and an investigation began.
"Monday morning rolled around and all the contractors started calling saying this and that and got the police out here," he said.
"We were going to pull partial permits and when the insurance people get out here that they could come out here and tell us what they're going to pay for and we'll pull the additional permits," he said.
Mcknight said City Inspector Dale Allred told McKnight that if he did one thing wrong that his bond would be pulled, McKnight knew something was up and left the office without the permits.
"I went to my lawyer Ryan Deaton," he said. "He filed a lawsuit against the city and filing one against the police."
The suits are for defamation of character. Monday after, McKnight was arrested and charged with tampering with governmental records. He's out on bond.
"By not paying for something and not pulling the cards out on people's property, I don't see how they say I'm decepting government documents," he said.
McKnight confirmed he posted the comment on KTRE.com.
"I paid my dues to society and people at the city hall and the police will not let it go and have made, without a doubt, defamation of character and have singled me out and assumed that they could send the police out to the neighborhood Englewood and hollar fraud or skam and terrorize the victims by throwing my past up and assuming that I took money from the people," McKnight stated. "They were so sure that they sent city inspectors and city workers to tear down my character and assume the worst."
McKnight also claimed Lufkin Police harassed his customers until they decided not to do business with him, costing him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Police arrested McKnight Monday on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, by filing for building permits before customers agreed to do business with him. Police also accuse him of claiming the projects to be for less money than he was charging, giving him the permit at a lower price.
According to McKnight's arrest affidavit, McKnight admitted in an interview with the City of Lufkin that he signed building permits without most of the homeowners' knowledge, which stops any other businesses from soliciting business from the homeowner.
In the investigation, Lt. Jerry Smith and City Inspector Dale Allred made contact with ten homeowners. Only one stated he had a contract with McKnight's business, the affidavit stated.
The affidavit also stated McKnight initially operated under the assumed name certificate of Wells Siding and Metal Roofing until the owner of that business told the inspection services department not to issue any permits to McKnight. McKnight then obtained an assumed names certificate under the name of Wells Siding and Roofing on Dec. 29.
McKnight has been convicted of theft, misapplication of trust fund, forgery, obstruction or retaliation, assault and forgery of a financial instrument.
The affidavit stated McKnight violated his parole by conducting business under his own bond.