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Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- Former Louisiana state Rep. Sherman Copelin now faces some serious criminal charges in Jefferson Parish.

The charges are tied to a rebuilding project at a private school in Harvey.

The Westbank Christian Center on Lapalco Boulevard sits shuttered and only partially rebuilt.

Court documents indicate Copelin was hired to repair the school after Hurricane Katrina. According to the JPSO, Copelin received more than $800,000 in government recovery dollars for the job.

He is now accused of not paying subcontractor Lyle Doublet of Metairie, who actually did the work.

'We actually have been investigating a number of these cases in conjunction with the Louisiana Attorney General's Office,' said JP Sheriff Newell Normand. 'We've had a lot of these cases actually as a result of Road Home, Hazard Mitigation Shoring companies, things of that nature.'

Normand said a warrant was out for Copelin's arrest. He surrendered Wednesday morning and was booked into the parish jail on one count each of theft and misapplication of payment.

Doublet's attorney Robert Evans said Copelin's arrest is overdue.

'He had not only lost several hundred thousands of dollars in materials and equipment that he put into it, but he also had to pay his laborers for the work they did and he's been out of that money for a long time and struggling to get by,' said Evans.

Copelin's attorney Robert Jenkins says his client denies any wrongdoing.

'When Copelin learned of the arrest warrant yesterday, he contacted the sheriff's office and the case is now going through the investigative process,' Jenkins said.

Normand said his office takes alleged contractor fraud very seriously.

'We have been very pro-active in making sure and ensuring that the constituents of Jefferson Parish are not stiffed by anybody, and that when complaints are made that we are very proactive.'

Copelin's Recovery Development Group was the target of a scathing legislative audit, pointing to possible misspent and missing money.

Subcontractor Lyle Doublet has also filed a lawsuit against Copelin.

'The money to rebuild (the school) was either kept by Mr. Copelin or somebody else, but never reached the contractors who were actually doing the work,' said Evans.

Copelin was released from prison on a $10,000 bond.

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