Homeowners want DAs to be more aggressive prosecuting accused contractors – KBTX

Contractors Weightlifting

OAKWOOD, Texas (KBTX) -A Leon County Family is seeking justice and accountability after losing more than $270,000 after they say a contractor left their home unfinished.

Mark and Jeanie Haas hired Luis Carrillo, owner of LC Custom Homes in Buffalo, to build their dream home in the fall of 2021.

Mark, a disabled marine veteran, and Jeanie, an accountant who’s now battling stage five kidney disease, say their dream home turned into a nightmare that’s been nonstop. The Haas family says they outlined 11 projects they wanted Carrillo to complete including building a new home, installing a new generator and HVAC system, new fencing around the property, underground fuel storage, concrete work, and more. The family says, in all, they invested more than $300,000 into the property, including building materials, appliances, and labor costs.

Because Carrillo was local and came highly recommended, they made the choice to pay him upfront. They say in addition to feeling comfortable with Carrillo, they also wanted to lock in the lower cost of supplies and labor amid steady inflation.

“We invested $341,000 here on the property. Now, some of that was spent for new appliances, home furnishings, the well, and the generator, but the actual cash that we handed him is roughly $270,000,” said Mark.

Luis Carrillo, owner of LC Custom Homes in Buffalo is accused of taking thousands from an Oakwood family before completing job.(KBTX)

Outside of being out of thousands of dollars Mark and Jeanie say they’re frustrated with the criminal justice system. They say despite having what they feel is concrete evidence, officials have yet to arrest or charge Carrillo with a crime.

“If anybody I felt that I could rely on, it was the local sheriff’s department and our district attorney, and they’ve let me down,” said Mark.

The family says while officials sympathize with their situation he thinks they could be more aggressive in prosecuting bad contractors. Mark specifically points out the progress being made in other Texas Counties which he says have taken a much stronger stance on contractor crimes.

“This is an epidemic in Texas. Every time a hurricane comes through and people lose their roofs and their patios and damage to their homes, contractors come in and just reap the money and disappear. This has got to stop,” Mark said. “They did send a deputy out to take the initial investigation but very little if any action has been taken after that.”

“There are DAs out there who are courageous enough to prosecute these cases and this case is a case that most definitely should be prosecuted and I’m just hoping it stops here,” said Mark.

Bank records provided by the Haas family show thousands of dollars in wire transfers and cash payments to Carrillo. They say not only are they out the money they gave him, but they are also paying back the construction loan they took out to do the work.

“We haven’t had the project finished, but yet the loan is still in place,” Mark said. “And I’m paying $2,500 a month on a mortgage that didn’t exist before he came out here.”

Mark and Jeanie say they just want Carrillo to take responsibility for his actions.

“We’re not asking for any special treatment. We’re not asking for favors. We’re not asking for anything other than due process, and being fair understanding that we have been victims of a very serious and expensive crime,” said Mark. “We just want what any other American would expect under the same exact circumstances. No favors, no nothing. Just what is right. That’s it, just what’s right.”

But in cases like these, obtaining accountability and justice is easier said than done. Brazos County District Attorney Jarvis Parsons has prosecuted his share of bad contractors and says everything is not clear-cut when deciding if a case should be tried criminally. He says in these cases oftentimes it is not a matter of proving if the work was done or not but rather the intent of the contractor.

“Is this a pattern of conduct or is this something that is just a breach of contract in one instance?” said Parsons. “If it’s a breach of contract in one instance it makes it harder to prove that a person’s conscious objective or desire as defined in the penal code was to defraud or harm.”

Parsons says when it comes to trying any criminal case in court it’s important to know that each case is unique and different, especially when dealing with businesses.

“I think the first thing that you gotta realize is every case is different. So you got to look at everybody, everyone has a unique set of circumstances, a unique set of facts,” said Parsons. “I think, broadly, what we’re looking for when we decide if we’re going to take a case or not take a case, or things like that is, is there a pattern of conduct? Is this a one-off? Or is this a person that has left a number of individuals in their wake?”

Parsons says communication between all parties involved is key in situations like these.

“I’ll never, ever discount a family’s feelings because they feel like they can’t get justice, regardless of whether or not the case is a prosecutable case or not,” Parsons said. “What I would say is one of the best ways to handle that is to call the prosecutor or the law enforcement agency and say, hey, I want to sit down and talk with you about this particular case and explain to me why this case was not prosecuted.”

KBTX made several attempts to meet with Carrillo to get his side of the story including traveling to Buffalo twice. We spoke with him by phone and he again declined an interview but stated that he was innocent. We also requested a written statement, to which Carrilo replied: “According to my attorney I can’t say the side of my history with all evidence and facts but I will do it soon as the investigation is over with the sheriff’s department.”

KBTX also made several attempts to speak with the Leon CountySheriff’s Office and District Attorney but did not hear back at the time of this story.

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