(WSVN) - They thought the extra time at home during the pandemic was the perfect time to renovate. In his special assignment report, Kevin Ozebek investigates why they say they shelled out their money for nothing.
They had big dreams of fancy kitchens.
Daisy Salazar: “I can’t eat at home. I can’t cook at home.”
Walter Martinez: “I just felt taken, violated.”
All of these South Florida homeowners hired the same person to renovate their homes, paid big money but were left with big messes.
Jessica Chirino, former customer: “I have six children in my house without closets and without a kitchen!”
In May 2020, Michael and Jessica Chirino paid Junior Gonzalez Montes de Oca of Elite Custom Kitchens and Closets, Inc., a $10,800 deposit to update their kitchen cabinets and bedroom closets.
Measurements were made, rooms were ripped out, but after that, not much else happened.
Michael Chirino, former customer: “As soon as he receives the money, there’s automatically a disconnection, and then, that’s when the excuses begin.”
They were left with a stripped kitchen and bare closets.
They demanded their money back but have only received a fraction of it, and they are not alone.
Daisy Salazar is living out of boxes after paying thousands last year to have her kitchen renovated.
Daisy Salazar, former customer: “The estimate was for $7,200, and I paid him $4,300. After that, everything was, ‘Yes, everything’s going to be done in a few weeks.’ Weeks, months came and went and nothing.”
After posting online reviews, Daisy and the Chirinos found even more unhappy customers like Fahim Siddiqui and Walter Martinez.
Walter paid a $7,500 deposit to renovate his kitchen.
Walter Martinez, former customer: “It took him two weeks just to come and rip out the kitchen, and it was three missed appointments.”
He says after texting back and forth for months, he asked for a refund but never got a dime.
Walter Martinez: “My insurance cancelled on me because they consider my house a construction zone.”
Fahim hired the company to update his kitchen cabinets.
This is what he had to deal with for weeks.
Fahim Siddiqui, former customer: “All my bottom cabinets, which happens to be the chemicals and all the unsafe stuff, have no doors. No doors, no front covers for my drawers so it’s just open.”
We wanted to speak to Gonzalez Montes de Oca, so we stopped by his Miami-Dade warehouse.
No answer, but we tracked him down not far away.
Kevin Ozebek: “Junior, can we talk to you just for a second?”
He quickly sped off.
Gonzalez Montes de Oca later agreed to an interview but cancelled.
Then Tuesday, he was arrested, charged with grand theft, contracting without a license and a scheme to defraud.
His attorney tells 7 Investigates his client “has spent the last 20 years providing quality craftsmanship at affordable prices. Unfortunately, my client’s business has been in decline and short staffed due to COVID. He had been struggling to fulfill his customer’s orders due to some personal hardships and has already issued thousands in refunds.”
Kevin Ozebek: “Do you feel justice is being done?”
Jessica Chirino: “Partly, I definitely will be looking up his mug shot.”
Investigators believe that there may be additional victims. Anyone victimized by Gonzalez is asked to call the Economic Crimes Bureau at 305-994-1000.
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