One woman you hear on a popular South Florida radio station. One woman you see on TV talking about her decorating skills. But when the TV personality was hired by the radio DJ, instead of a nice home, she got a visit to jail. Why? Tonight, a Patrick Fraser investigative exclusive has the details.
WSVN — Ivy Merced: “Power 96, what’s up? Your chica Ivy.”
If you listen to the radio in South Florida, you probably know Ivy.
Ivy Merced: “Happy Friday! I am so excited right now.”
Ivy Merced is a popular disc jockey at Power 96 who bought her first house 18 months ago.
Ivy Merced: “Perfect house: four bedrooms, two living rooms. I’m like, ‘Yes.’ Everything is perfect.”
Because Ivy works so much, she needed a decorator, and the radio star saw this woman on TV, Eilyn Cueto.
Ivy Merced: “She was on CNN en Español. I thought, ‘Yeah, she’s professional, she’s young, but she’s driven. She’s a pretty girl, she has her stuff together.'”
The radio star and the TV star met, signed a contract, and Eilyn Cueto started to decorate Ivy’s dream home.
Ivy Merced: “From everything to get the walls the color that I wanted to pick out furniture.”
That was then. This is now.
Ivy Merced: “It ended up being a nightmare, like the nightmare of my life. You have no idea. It’s my dream house, with dream nothing in it. And my kitchen is classy. They don’t have any cabinet doors.”
Ivy says she paid Eilyn every time she got a bill.
Ivy Merced: “I gave her a check in June of last year for couches for the family room, and I still have no couches.”
And Ivy says, when she talked to the painter Cueto hired, Ivy found out the bill Cueto had given her was not accurate.
Ivy Merced: “Let’s say the painting cost three thousand something. She told me it was like $7,300, and she pocketed the middle.”
A year after the 4-week decorating job was supposed to be finished, after Ivy says she had paid Eilyn nearly $40,000,
the job still was not finished.
Ivy Merced: “But the money I had to furnish my entire house, it was gone. I freaked out. I didn’t know what to do.”
It’s common in South Florida. A customer is not happy with the person they hired to do work. A business dispute, a civil matter, but then Miramar Police started investigating, and along with the Broward State Attorney, concluded this was not a civil matter. What Eilyn Cueto did was a crime.
Tania Rues, Miramar Police Department: “This was a yearlong investigation that accumulated in the charges filed against Ms. Cueto, which included grand theft and for working as an unlicensed contractor.”
Eilyn Cueto was booked into the Broward County Jail after investigators saw this picture on Cueto’s Facebook page talking about working in Ivy’s house. But detectives say the more serious charge of grand theft came for intentionally taking thousands of dollars of Ivy’s money for items she did not deliver.
Tania Rues: “Predominantly because in the contract, there were items that were promised to the victim, items such as furniture fixtures and so forth, that were not provided to her.”
We contacted Eilyn Cueto. She did not want to talk to us, but her attorney did.
Samuel Rabin: “My client was victimized by her client.”
Samuel Rabin says Cueto should not have been charged as an unlicensed contractor.
Samuel Rabin: “She wasn’t performing the work as a contractor. She is a decorator. The contracting work was going to be done by a licensed contractor.”
We then showed him the picture of what appears to be Cueto plastering a ceiling.
Samuel Rabin: “I’m not saying she wasn’t there, but I’m just saying she was not the person responsible for ‘contracting work.’ She was responsible for decorating, interior design work.”
He also disputed the grand theft charge, and blamed Ivy.
Samuel Rabin: “I believe what happened here was, when she stopped paying bills or refused to pay the full invoice, some of the goods were held back in order to compensate her for the design fee.”
Cueto has now bonded out of jail and will begin her defense.
Ivy Merced: “Because I’m pregnant. Now go get me a snack.”
Since she hired Eilyn Cueto, Ivy got pregnant. She was thrilled about that, and was also happy to see Cueto get charged.
Ivy Merced: “And the fact is that she was arrested for doing something that was wrong. She stole money from me; she left my house upside down. I feel a sigh of relief.”
This week, the radio star and her husband had a healthy baby boy. He’s a dream a come true, but her house is not.
I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.