Lawsuit claims Miami homebuilder and a ‘band of thieves’ stole millions from customers
A Miami home builder was sued for stealing millions of dollars from clients to fund his high-roller lifestyle with weekend gambling stints at the Hard Rock Casino, two Rolls Royces and a Range Rover, and a luxury apartment in Brickell.
Francisco Mendez, owner of Miami-based real estate developer Pioneer Inter-Development, overpaid contractors working on multiple houses and then demanded that they give him the extra money, according to a complaint filed late Wednesday in the Circuit Court in Miami-Dade return as money setback.
"There is more of this type of fraud than people would like to believe," said John Criste, attorney at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, the law firm that represents the plaintiffs. "But the fact that it is widespread doesn't make it right. In this case, Mr. Mendez and his cohorts were caught accidentally. They were caught because the fraud cases in this case are outrageous."
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The suit also names Marianna Dubinsky, a self-proclaimed real estate consultant, and the companies VRG Remodeling Construction Corp., SDG Remodeling Construction Group and Emgei Finish Services, based in Miami-Dade.
The file calls the defendants a "gang of thieves" who helped Mendez implement his money-making plan by showing rigged or inflated bills.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three parties, all of Mendez's customers: Trevor Taylor and the couple, Patricio and Ana Cordero.
Christopher M. Utrera and Herman Russomanno III, the attorneys defending Mendez, said their client "denies any wrongdoing and that their client looks forward to proving it in court".
Double billing and fake bills
According to the complaint, in 2017 Taylor hired Pioneer to build a house on its property at 6555 SW 102nd Ave. in Pinecrest. The agreement was that the house would be completed in 12 months.
Instead, it took nearly three years to build while Taylor continued to pay construction-related bills. In the summer of 2020, Taylor called the subcontractors and found a difference between what they paid and what he was billed for. In one case, he overpaid a concrete contractor $ 600,000 - money that went to Mendez.
Taylor also discovered that he had been billed twice for identical bills for $ 11,139 by a window subcontractor. He was later billed an additional $ 44,695 by Pioneer, but the window company had no record of this transaction.
He later paid Pioneer two bills for a glass subcontractor, valued at $ 43,000 each. However, the invoices looked different even though both were invoices for the same material. When Taylor asked Mendez to repay the second payment, the developer refused and Taylor canceled the contract.
Where is the wood?
According to the complaint, the Corderos hired Pioneer to build a house on their property at 10600 SW 67th Ave. in Pinecrest. Two years later, the project had made little progress, despite the fact that the Corderos had been invoiced and paid four advance payments, including one for special woods imported from Brazil.
When the plaintiffs asked Mendez for confirmation of the secured timber, Mendez was unable to provide any documents.
On September 22, 2020, Pioneer sent the couple a fifth progress invoice for $ 1.8 million. After consulting with various subcontractors, the Corderos found that some materials had never been ordered and Pioneer had double-billed them by more than $ 300,000 on behalf of the specific subcontractor.
The excess money was channeled through the various companies named in the complaint. The companies took a commission and turned the rest of the funds over to Mendez.
The lawsuit charges Mendez, Dubinsky and the various companies with three cases of fraud, four cases of aiding and abetting and fraud, two cases of conspiracy, two cases of conversion and two cases of unjust enrichment.
"At the end of the day, Mr. Mendez got Mr. Taylor and the Corderos to trust him to build their family homes," said Criste. “He broke that trust when he started taking their money away from them. They are hardworking people and nobody deserves their money stolen from them. "
Jeff Schneider, managing partner at Levine, Kellogg, Lehman, Schneider + Grossman, who is not involved in the case, said the reason plaintiffs sue instead of calling the police to file criminal complaints is that they are mostly just theirs Wanted money back.
"If they called the police, the case would go to the prosecutor and they could bring charges against the developer, but that wouldn't return the plaintiffs' money," Schneider said. “If you hire a lawyer and file a civil lawsuit, you can get your money sooner. If Pioneer had built the houses as promised, they probably would have gotten away with it. "
The filing on Wednesday kicks off the judicial process that will result in either a judicial proceeding by a judge or jury or the return of all funds to plaintiffs.
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