LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – A Wells man accused of illegally securing thousands of dollars worth of contracts with tornado victims in Lufkin is headed to trial.
Jury selection is underway in the case of Jason McKnight who is accused of falsifying building permits on behalf of people with whom he had no contract.
In prior reports, McKnight had said police listened to his competition and paid too much attention to his 24 previous arrests. In an interview with KTRE-TV in January, McKnight said, "Thought we were really helping people, but the city and police had a different idea." Those different opinions led to the arrest of the owner of Wells Siding and Roofing.
McKnight thinks his go-getter attitude and his criminal background instigated authorities to look into his actions. He said he had his workers out working through the Christmas holidays last year to help restore order to neighborhoods ravaged by a tornado that swept through on December 23rd. He said rumors started flying about him which scared his customers.
His arrest affidavit states McKnight secured building permits without homeowner approval of construction work. McKnight decided not to go forward with a plea deal back in June and his attorney said then they had evidence to prove McKnight's innocence.
The December tornadoes ripped through Lufkin's Englewood neighborhood eight days after Jeanie Purtee moved in.
"The roof shingles were lifted a little bit,"said Purtee. "We have some damage in the back on the fence and that tree right there is gone."
She said the Sheriff asked her if any roofers had approached them. Purtee told him some had, but she hadn't signed any contracts.
"[The Sheriff] said that there was a work permit taken out in our name, well actually the previous owner's name because they didn't know who they were dealing with I guess and we hadn't signed anything," explained Purtee.
When Mcknight talked to KTRE-TV months ago, he claimed they were partial permits for the dry-in and tarps.
"Typically what happens is so-called contractors come from near and far to the point of where the damage is and not everybody that shows up is of good character,"said Lufkin Building Inspector Dale Allred.
People down one Englewood street said they were approached by McKnight, but neighbors had already warned them about him. Others didn't want to do an on-camera interview because they had been subpoenaed to testify in the trial.
"It's just a right from wrong thing," said Purtee. "It's pretty basic. Most kids know right from wrong."
"I've done nothing wrong," said McKnight in a January interview. "We haven't taken one red penny from nobody."
It's a decision the jury is set to make next week.
The District Attorney and McKnight's lawyer both declined to comment at this time since the case is set to go to trial next Wednesday.