The Real Deal Miami

Hialeah construction company execs charged with defrauding affordable housing fund

Grand jury indictment alleges two Aaron Construction executives lowballed bids to get contracts for housing projects
By Keith Larsen | June 21, 2018 06:00PM

The president and vice president of a Hialeah-based construction company face federal charges for allegedly defrauding Miami-Dade County’s low-income housing fund.

Javier Estepa and Diego Alejandro Estepa Vazquez of Aaron Construction Company, were charged in a four-count indictment on Thursday over their alleged involvement in a scheme to gain contracts with Miami-Dade Public Housing and Community Development to renovate and repair affordable housing units, according to the indictment.

The indictment, filed in a U.S. District Court in Southern Florida, alleges that between June 2014 and December 2016, Estepa and Estepa Vazquez devised a scheme where they would falsely and fraudulently underreport the number of workers on projects to artificially lower the company’s costs. By lowering these costs, they were able to submit “lowball bids” for Public Housing and Community Development (PHCD) work and gain contracts, according to the indictment.

Javier Estepa’s attorney Neil Taylor disputed the allegations. “We strongly disagree with the government’s perception and we are going to let a jury decide,” he said.

According to Aaron Construction’s website, the firm handles construction work for residential and commercial projects. The website says the company also has completed hotel remodeling in South Beach.

In order to gain these contracts, the indictment alleges Estepa, 47 and Estepa Vazquez, 36, submitted periodic or final estimates for payments that allegedly contained false and fraudulent payroll records. It said they falsely characterized that they had no subcontractors when in actuality they did.

Based on these statements, Public Housing and Community Development allegedly made three wire transfers to Aaron Construction between November 2014 and June 2016 to the defendants based on these bids — one for $516,366.41, one for $194,292.87, and one for $10,018.35.

The defendants are scheduled to have their initial appearance on June 25 before United States Magistrate Judge Patrick White. If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and restitution, as to each charged count.

Diego Alejandro Estepa Vazquez’s attorney Susy Ribero-Ayala declined comment.