Hurricane Harvey contractor who stole $180K from victims gets 10-year sentence

HOUSTON -- A building contractor has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud during Hurricane Harvey, according to Texas officials.

Benjamin Wood, 36, pleaded guilty to stealing $180,000 from 26 different victims including workers, suppliers and clients, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.

Wood operated construction companies and had a long history of misdemeanor arrests for credit card abuse, theft and wage theft from contractors.

"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," Ogg said.

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The district attorney said he was involved in schemes leading up to Hurricane Harvey in 2017 up until his arrest last year.

After the storm, Wood duped dozens of people into paying him for work he never did, including by writing bad checks to small supply companies and mom-and-pop businesses.

According to consumer fraud prosecutor Sheila Hansel, who handled the case, victims reported Wood gained their trust by talking about his military service and emphasizing that his company was "veteran-owned."

"He was just papering Harris and Montgomery counties with bad checks written on closed accounts," Hansel said.

Wood's sentence will run concurrently with a 10-year sentence he received in Montgomery County for doing the same thing to dozens of victims there.

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