A tornado ripped through a Lawtey couple's home earlier this year causing thousands of dollars' worth of damage to their roof. Helen Bohannon said she called local Pastor Kyle Harrison with Harvest Church of Starke for advice on getting her home repaired.
“My husband and I had known him for years, and he had always done the work on our cars, and we trusted him,” Bohannon explained.
Harrison is not Bohannon’s pastor, but she knew him from his nonprofit business, Transformation Ministries. She said Harrison helped people in the community who were down on their luck by giving them jobs to repair cars.
“I called him and asked, 'Do you know a licensed contractor?' And he said, 'Myself.'"
Bohannon said she had no reason to think he was lying about being a licensed contractor, so she signed over all of the money her homeowner’s insurance policy sent her -- $26,009.25 -- to Harrison.
She expected the pastor to do the roof repair work he promised, pointing to a contract she still has, signed by him, listing himself as the contractor.
But months later, the work is not finished. In fact, she said Harrison caused more damage, saying the roof leaks more now than it did from the tornado. She showed the I-TEAM damage she said was caused as a result of Harrison's faulty roof repair.
Flashing, which helps direct the flow of water, is missing. And there are gaping holes in the roof where metal or plywood should be placed to prevent water from leaking inside. Bohannon said mold has started to grow in the ceiling corners of two of her bedrooms.
“My entire attic has water damage. All that black up in the corners has just started to come through,” Bohannon said pointing to the ceiling.
Also, an outdoor covered porch no longer has a roof on it.
Included in the repairs she hired Harrison to complete was a new fence. It now leans to one side and wires are sticking out of posts where her electric fence was supposed to be repaired.
“How could a pastor do this? How could a man of God do this?” she asked tearfully. “I’m broken.”
Bohannon said it was not until her new roof was installed that she realized Harrison was not a licensed contractor.
“It was pouring like a waterfall. I had buckets everywhere,” she said, showing the I-TEAM video she recorded of water seeping into her bedroom during a rainstorm.
She said she called the city asking about permits that had been pulled and only discovered then that Harrison is not a licensed contractor and that a permit was never pulled to replace her roof.
Bohannon called the Lawtey Police Department, and so did the I-TEAM. The police chief opened an investigation, and after interviewing Harrison, Chief Shane Bennett said Harrison is now charged with falsely identifying himself as a contractor.
We tried to find Harrison to get his side of the story. We went to a home listed as his address. It's a large house that appears to have several bedrooms on a big piece of land in Starke. We saw a separate house in the back along with two boats.
We did some investigating and discovered the home was slated to be sold that week in foreclosure, but have since learned Harrison is trying to modify his mortgage loan in order to keep the house.
While we were there, a man who appeared to be Harrison’s son met us in the driveway and told us his father was gone for the day.
The I-TEAM also discovered Harrison’s nonprofit, Transformation Ministries, has been dissolved. We also went to the address listed as the Harvest Church of Starke where Harrison is the pastor and learned it is also a school.
A woman who later identified herself as Harrison’s wife said she would call her husband and have him contact us. He did a short time later, telling us he was sorry for what had happened and describing his conversation with Bohannon about a contractor’s license as a "misunderstanding."
Harrison said he made a mistake hiring a member of his church, who was out of work, to repair Bohannon’s roof. We asked him if he was going to repay her the more than $26,000, and he only said that he is sorry, and he wants to make it right.
Since that conversation, Bohannon told the I-TEAM, Harrison has told her he will repay her by getting a loan. She said he made that promise on Oct. 24. But nearly two months later, she has not yet received a dime from him, she said.
“I can’t believe that he stands in that church week in and week out, confessing the word of God, and has done this to someone. I can’t stand it. It upsets me horribly,” Bohannon said.
While she told us she knows she may not actually get a penny back from Harrison, she wanted him to be exposed.
“I was driving to work and I just said, 'Oh my goodness, the I-TEAM, I need him exposed,'” Bohannon said. "'How am I going to do it? The I-TEAM.' I don’t want him to do this to anyone else.”
Bohannon said she thinks Harrison purposely took advantage of her and her husband, Herb. Her husband is battling Stage 4 head and neck cancer.
"My emotions are nothing compared to what’s happening to my husband. I just feel taken advantage of,” she said.
With her husband’s illness, Bohannon said they have no money to fix their roof or repair the water damage. She said an estimate from another roof company now puts the repair costs at nearly $46,000.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said, crying.
The couple's daughter has now set up a GoFundMe account to help raise money for the repairs.
The I-TEAM reached out again to Harrison before this story aired on News4Jax and he emailed us this statement:
"Just want to let you know I am working diligently to return all the funds back to the Bohannons. Please know that I (am) extremely regretful that this turned out the way it did, and it was NEVER my intentions to wrong them in any way. Several mistakes were made and I take full responsibility for them all. I have served my community for 20 years, and have helped countless families in more ways than I have time to tell. This time it just I simply made a couple bad mistakes. But I will make it right. My worst regret is knowing that they emotionally hurt. I care about them deeply, and I can promise you I won't stop until this is made right."