A Mountain Home man who operated a roofing business now faces charges in three cases in which he is accused of taking down payments on jobs and never doing the work.
Twenty-nine-year-old John Downing was in Baxter County Circuit Court Thursday. He entered a not guilty plea to the charges against him.
Downing, who has recently been on the Most Wanted list maintained by the Baxter County Sheriff's Office, was picked up Jan. 20th and booked into the county jail.
The initial case filed in late May last year alleges Downing entered into a contract with a homeowner to put a new roof on his residence. According to the probable cause affidavit, the victim paid Downing $2,250 as an advance for the job. Since the day the agreement was reached, Downing is reported not to have returned to the victim's home to install the roof.
The victim told investigators he made several calls to Downing and heard a number of excuses as to why the work had not been started. Downing told the victim at various times work on his house would start the next day or the victim's house was next in line to be worked on.
After several calls, Downing stopped returning the victim's calls.
The victim said no materials had been delivered to his home.
In early August last year, occupants of a Mountain Home residence told authorities they had contracted with Downing to do repairs on their roof for $1,700.
The victims said they went to their bank and obtained a cashier's check for $1,700 and gave it to Downing who was alleged to have cashed it the same day.
Again, the victims were told a number of stories as to why work had not started. Downing said, at one point, rainy weather had put him behind. On another date, he said the work would be completed in about two weeks.
Finally, Downing called the homeowners saying he did not have time to take on their job and would refund the $1,700 they had paid him. He did not return the money, according to investigators.
Further attempts to contact Downing to ask when the money would be returned went unanswered.
In late October, a homeowner reported he had contracted with Downing for roofing work. Downing told the victim a down payment of $4,700 would be required. The victim paid Downing but no work was ever done.
The homeowner required Downing's company -- Highbridge Roofing and Construction -- to have a current contractor's license, general liability insurance and workers compensation coverage during the life of the contract.
The victim found Downing's contracting license had expired, and insurance coverage had been canceled due to non-payment. He contacted Downing and asked for his money back. While Downing promised to return the money in a few days, he did not make good on that promise.
In June of last year, Downing filed a $5 million slander suit against a Baxter County man for allegedly damaging the reputation of his company.
Downing had reportedly started work on a structure on the man's property, but did not complete the job, forcing the victim to hire another contractor to redo the work.
In the slander suit, Downing said the man was spreading false statements about "unscrupulous business practices" by his company.
The false statements, Downing contended, would cost his company millions of dollars in lost sales during the next decade. The suit was dismissed for lack of prosecution, and the court awarded the man against whom Downing filed the suit $17,900 in damages and attorney fees.
In his current cases, Circuit Judge Gordon Webb set Downing's bond at $15,000 and put a number of conditions on him, should he bond out of jail, including having no contact with the victims and not engaging in the roofing business.
According to the jail log maintained by the Baxter County Sheriff's Office, Downing bonded out of jail just after 5:00 p.m. Thursday.
Downing was ordered to reappear in circuit court next month.
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