Roofing contractor charged with taking money, doing no work has bond revoked, jailed

A Mountain Home roofing contractor, facing charges in three cases in which he is accused of taking money for jobs and never doing the work has had his bond revoked and is being held in the Baxter County jail.

Twenty-nine-year-old John Downing was in Baxter County Circuit Court Thursday where 14th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney David Ethredge said the state had filed a motion to revoke the bond because Downing had violated the conditions attached to the $15,000 bond by soliciting new roofing business.

In the motion to revoke, the state alleges Downing has been active in the roofing business in North Carolina, Iowa and Florida. Downing's attorney argued his client was not working for himself in those states but for others, and it was believed that was permitted by the bond conditions.

Circuit Judge Gordon Webb disagreed. He said the bond conditions were modified in early February to only allow Downing to do very limited warranty work on jobs he had already completed. Downing was told he was to take no money from customers for whom the warranty work was done.

The initial case was filed against Downing in late May last year and alleges he 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 in advance for the job. Since the day the agreement was reached, Downing was reported not to have returned to the victim's house to install the new 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 the next in line to be done.

After several calls, Downing stopped returning the victim's calls. The victim told investigators no materials had been delivered.

In early August last year, occupants of a residence in Mountain Home told authorities they had contracted with Downing to do repairs on their roof for $1,700. The victims told investigators they went to their bank, obtained a cashiers 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 the work had not been started. Downing said rainy weather had put him behind. On another date, he said the work would be completed in two weeks. Finally, Downing called the residents saying he did not have time to take on their job and would refund the $1,700 they had paid him. He did not keep the pledge, according to court records.

Attempts to contact Downing about returning the money were unsuccessful, the victims said.

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.

Downing's company, Highbridge Roofing and Construction, was required 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 contractor's license had expired and insurance coverage had been canceled due to non-payment. The home owner contacted Downing and said he wanted his money back.

While Downing made promises to return the money to the victim in a few days, he did not make good on that promise either.

In June of last year, Downing filed a $5 million slander suit against a Baxter County man for allegedly damaging the reputation of his business. Downing had reportedly done work on a pole barn for the victim, but did not compete the job, forcing the man to have another contractor 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 in his suit would cost his company millions of dollars in sales during the next 10 years. 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.

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