HOUSTON — Harris County Precinct 1 constables arrested a man they said scammed unsuspecting victims out of more than $300,000.

Keith Anton Johnson, 43, is charged with aggregate theft after allegedly running a scheme for two years that involved stealing the money from people who hired him for general construction work in Bellaire.

Officials said two of the six people were also Harvey victims. Authorities said Johnson preyed on these victims during a time when general contractor availability was scarce.

According to Pct. 1, victims confronted Johnson about falling behind on projects, and Johnson told them construction materials were stolen from the job site. Johnson allegedly told one property owner five air conditioning units had been stolen from the job site, though investigators said Johnson never filed a police report.

Johnson was arrested on July 17. If convicted, he could face five to 99 years or life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

5 tips to protect yourself from contractor scams

The Texas Department of Insurance, the state agency in charge of regulating the insurance industry, says you may avoid a contractor scam by: 

  1. Getting written estimates. They should be on the company’s letterhead with clear contact information. 
  2. Getting more than one bid. Once you get them, verify the amount with your insurance company. They’ll give you an idea of what it should* cost. 
  3. Checking out company reviews online. Beware of a contractor who only has out of town references or who solicits door to door. 
  4. Not paying up front. Good contractors may require partial payment but don’t make your final payment until the job is finished. 
  5. Being wary of offers to waive the deductible. The deductible is part of your insurance agreement and any offer to waive it is a red flag that the contractor could be committing insurance fraud. 

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