Unfinished Business: Homeowners say contractor took $270K but didn’t finish job

“I hate to sound cliche, but it’s been a living hell. My wife and I feel like we live in a landfill. We had so much hope to have our dream complete and to enjoy the fruits of our labor.”
Published: Jan. 1, 2023 at 6:57 PM CST
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OAKWOOD, Texas (KBTX) - A Leon County family is out of more than $270,000 after they say a contractor left their home unfinished and their property in shambles.

Mark and Jeanie Haas have always dreamed of having a home tucked away in rural Texas where they could enjoy the fruits of their labors while entertaining family and friends.

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 since hiring Luis Carrillo, owner of LC Custom Homes in Buffalo, in September 2021.

The Haas family told KBTX 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, the Haas family says 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.

Mark says the last year has been challenging not just for him but for the entire family.

“I hate to sound cliche, but it’s been a living hell. My wife and I feel like we live in a landfill. We had so much hope to have our dream complete and to enjoy the fruits of our labor,” said Mark. " I served 41 years in my capacity of work. My wife has had to go back to work even with kidney disease. She’s having to see her specialists regularly. She’s on medications that have very, very adverse side effects.”

“It’s taken a toll on our marriage. It’s taken a toll on our physical health, our mental health,” Mark said. “It’s just, it’s been like nothing I would ever, ever wish on anybody.”

The Haas family says the issues go beyond the new construction, affecting their current home and the way they interact with their children and grandchildren.

“We’re living in this cabin. We don’t have any heat, because he disconnected the gas lines and that’s incomplete,” said Mark. “We’re working on space heaters. We don’t have proper sewage when we flush the toilet. Raw sewage percolates out of the line over here. We have electricity, the electricity that’s laying next to you, that’s hot. That’s 220 volts of power that’s just laying there.”

“It’s very dangerous when [our grandchildren are] here. We can’t let them off the porch anymore to play like they did because we’re afraid that they’ll get hurt,” said Jeanie.

“We’re just prisoners of our own home because of this man’s decisions,” Mark added.

Mark says one of the most frustrating parts of the situation is what he calls “constant lies” from Carrillo.

“Our last encounter was in August when we had a meeting right here on this porch. In fact, we videotaped it. It was 42 minutes long, and I just said, ‘It’s time that you come clean,’” said Mark. “‘You’ve been working on this house for a year now and everything is unfinished, nothing is done. You’ve come up with nothing but excuses and lies.’”

“His excuse was ‘I made mistakes and I’m not good with money.’ It’s just one lie after another after another,” said Mark. “We’ve tried to reach out but he’s blocked us on his phone and he’s just been a ghost. He won’t come out here and he won’t talk to us.”

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.”

The Haas family has since filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation after learning that Carrillo does not have an electrician or HVAC certification.

“I had asked him on several different occasions if in fact he was certified/licensed to complete my Generac install and the electrical that all of that entailed and he repeatedly told me yes,” said Mark. “He said he received his license while working at the power plant in Limestone, which proved not to be the case. I never asked him about the air conditioning because, by the time that came to be an issue, only a few days later was when he disappeared.”

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

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.”

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.”

“Nobody gave this to us. We worked. We’ve worked our whole lives for this,” said Jeanie. “ Every day of our lives going back decades, and we’ve earned it. It’s no different than somebody working for their retirement for 40 years, and they retire but yet their retirement check is taken from them.”