OKWOOD, TX (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.
In the fall of 2021, Mark and Jeanie Haas hired Luis Carrillo, owner of LC Custom Homes in Buffalo, to build their dream home.
Mark, a disabled Marine, and Jeanie, an accountant who is now battling stage five kidney disease, say their dream home has turned into a nightmare that hasn’t stopped. The Haas family says they have 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 they have invested more than $300,000 in total in real estate, including building materials, appliances and wages.
Since Carrillo was local and highly recommended, they decided to pay him upfront. They say that in addition to feeling comfortable with Carrillo, they also wanted to lock in lower material and labor costs in the face of persistent inflation.
“We invested $341,000 in real estate. Some of that amount was spent on new appliances, furnishings, a well and a generator, but the actual cash we gave him is roughly $270,000,” Mark said.
In addition to Mark and Jeanie running out of thousands of dollars, Mark and Jeanie say they are frustrated with the criminal justice system. They say that despite what they see as concrete evidence, officials have yet to arrest or charge Carrillo with a crime.
“If I felt like I could rely on anyone, it was the local sheriff’s department and our district attorney, and they let me down,” Mark said.
The family says that while officials are sympathetic to their situation, he believes they could be more aggressive in pursuing unscrupulous contractors. Mark specifically notes the progress made in other Texas counties, which he says have taken a much tougher stance on contractor crime.
“This is an epidemic in Texas. Every time a hurricane comes and people lose their roofs and terraces and damage their homes, contractors come along, just reap the money and disappear. This has to stop,” Mark said. “They sent a deputy to conduct an initial investigation, but very little action was taken after that.”
“There are district attorneys who are brave enough to prosecute these cases, and this case definitely needs to be taken to court, and I just hope it stops there,” Mark said.
Bank documents provided by the Haas family show that thousands of dollars were transferred and paid out in cash to the Carrillos. They say they not only squandered the money they gave him, but also paid off the construction loan they took out to carry out the work.
“We haven’t completed the project yet, but the loan is still there,” Mark said. “And I’m paying $2,500 a month on a mortgage that didn’t exist before he came here.”
Mark and Gini say they just want Carrillo to take responsibility for his actions.
“We are not asking for any special treatment. We are not asking for a favor. We are asking for nothing but due process and we rightly understand that we have been the victims of a very serious and costly crime,” Mark said. “We just want what any other American in the same circumstances would expect. No favors, nothing. Just what is right. That’s exactly what’s right.”
But in such cases, accountability and justice are easier said than done. Brazos County District Attorney Jarvis Parsons has been suing his fair share of unscrupulous contractors and says not everything is clear when deciding whether to go for a criminal case. He says that in such cases it is often not about whether the work was done or not, but about the intentions of the contractor.
“Is this a pattern or is it just a breach of contract in one case?” Parsons said. “If it is a breach of contract in one case, it makes it difficult to prove that the person’s conscious purpose or desire, as defined in the penal code, was to deceive or cause harm.”
Parsons says that when it comes to taking any criminal case to court, it’s important to know that every case is unique and different, especially when it comes to business.
“I think the first thing you need to understand is that every case is different. So you have to look at everyone, everyone has a unique set of circumstances, a unique set of facts,” Parsons said. “I think, in general, what are we looking for when we decide whether we will take on a case or not take on a case, or something like that, is there a pattern of behavior? Is it disposable? Or is it a person who left behind a lot of people?
Parsons says communication between all parties involved is key in situations like this.
“I will never, ever discount the feelings of the family because they feel they cannot get justice, whether the case is prosecutable or not,” Parsons said. “I would say that one of the best ways to deal with this is to call the prosecutor or law enforcement and say, hey, I want to sit down and talk to 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 point of view, including two trips to Buffalo. We spoke to him on the phone, and he again refused to be interviewed, but declared that he was innocent. We also requested a written statement, to which Carrilo replied: “According to my lawyer, I cannot tell my story with all the evidence and facts, but I will do it as soon as the investigation with the sheriff’s department is completed.”
KBTX also made several attempts to speak with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney but received no response at the time of this story.
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