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Builder Who Promised Fast Fixes for Flood Victims Accused of Writing Bad Checks

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ROCKY MOUNT — There has been an outpouring of help for victims of Hurricane Floyd, but one man who was heralded for rebuilding homes is now accused of bouncing checks to the people he hired.

The Storm Troopers blew into town from Ohio soon after the floods to help rebuild hundreds of homes in Edgecombe County. The private business promised fast fixes for homes that had been damaged by the hurricane.

At first, everyone, including subcontractors hired to help with repairs, seemed happy with the company. But in the past few weeks, financial hardships have created a real strain on the recovery.

At least five subcontractors working with Storm Troopers say they have not been paid for the work they have done.

Greg Baker, a subcontractor from Middlesex, says Storm Troopers owner Robert McKee wrote him $38,000 in checks that were no good.

Baker and fellow subcontractor Marshall Tant of Wilson had McKee arrested twice this week for felony bad checks.

Baker says the debt may put his operation out of business. "I've got a staff of nine people, counting myself, and he's got me in a bind. There's no doubt about that," he says.

"I could kind of see the writing on the wall with this gentleman. He told me he was going to make the check good, and he did not make the check good," says Tant, who lost about $4,500.

Several dozen flood victims are still waiting to move back into their homes.

Melvin Betrand was told he would be back in his home months ago. "Well, he told me first it would be Thanksgiving, then he said Christmas. It's February and I'm still not in," says Betrand.

McKee first agreed to a camera interview Friday to talk about the allegations, but later backed out saying he had to tend to local matters and did not have time. In a telephone interview, McKee said he made some mistakes, namely hiring too many workers, some unqualified, who strained the budget.

McKee says he had planned to fix 100 homes, but now says he will finish the remaining 30. He says he is not accepting any new customers.

Other contractors say they have also have received bad checks from McKee. The owner of Storm Troopers says he resents the way he is being treated, and wishes the subcontractors had come to him instead of calling the authorities.


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