Building a new home has turned into a nightmarish, costly legal battle for some Pinecrest residents and their former builder.
Homeowners Ana and Patricio Cordero are challenging a lien filed against them by their former builder, who they sued late last year, alleging he was running a kickback scheme, inflating costs and failing to perform work.
Francisco “Frank” Mendez has built homes for celebrities such as Luis Fonsi, former Miami Heat player Dion Waiters, and David “Big Papi” Ortiz.
In December, the Corderos and Trevor Taylor sued Mendez, after they had hired his company, Pioneer Inter-Development, to build their homes in Pinecrest. They alleged that Mendez “grossly inflated” and doctored invoices to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars that he had allegedly stolen from Taylor and the Corderos.
In addition to Mendez, the property owners sued real estate agent Marianna Dubinksy, VRG Remodeling Construction Group, SDG Remodeling Construction Group and EMGEI Finish Services.
Following the suit, Mendez’s company filed a lien in late January, seeking to collect nearly $584,000 from the Corderos for unpaid labor, services or materials, out of a total of about $2.4 million. Now, the Corderos’ attorney, John Criste of Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, is trying to have that lien discharged.
Haber Law attorney Christopher Utrera, who represents Mendez, called the Corderos’ move a “shameless attempt to create some sort of false narrative.” He said the Corderos “simply didn’t want to pay the money my client was entitled to” and that they are “creating these stories to get out of it.”
The Corderos hired Pioneer to build a home on their property at 10600 Southwest 67th Avenue in 2018, court records show. They paid more than $2.1 million through December 2019, and alleged in their lawsuit that Pioneer couldn’t account for a total of $622,172 in costs and materials.
“There is overwhelming evidence that the Corderos’ construction funds were stolen,” the Corderos’ attorney Criste said. “Despite evidence and what we can prove, he doubled down and went ahead and recorded a lien, clouding their title. It just shows the lengths that he’s willing to go to to try to protect himself, knowing the evidence that we have.”
Through a spokesperson, Criste added that Mendez is “a bully trading in on his celebrity homebuilder status to take advantage of his non-celebrity clients.”
The Corderos’ complaint seeking to discharge the allegedly fraudulent construction lien states that the lien is seeking amounts owed for work not performed or improperly performed, and/or for amounts not authorized by the contract or change orders to the contract. The couple also wants damages, interest, costs and attorneys fees from Pioneer.
Utrera said that his client completed the work until he was terminated in October. “If they wrongfully terminated him prior to his ability to finish the work, then it is what it is,” he said.
Criste, representing the Corderos, said the work was likely close to 30 percent completed by the time the couple fired Pioneer. They hired a new general contractor to take over the project, which is still under construction.