AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office filed a lawsuit against a Texas construction company that allegedly cost consumers thousands of dollars in a home-building scam.
The company would quit construction or not even start after receiving money. | Shutterstock
The case was filed against Adelina Briseno and Alejandra Melendez, doing business as Briseno Construction, in the U.S. District Court in Hidalgo County in February. The court has granted a restraining order.
Assistant Attorney General Joe Garcia works in the office’s Consumer Protection Division and is one of the lead attorneys on this case.
According to Garcia, the company advertised primarily on Facebook and promised consumers it could build affordable houses with no financing and no interest in as little as four to five months. The advertisements targeted low-income, Spanish-speaking families.
Consumers allegedly were required to pay down payments that were generally between $30,000 and 50,000. Briseno allegedly would not deliver on her promises, however.
“She would quit the job or not even start after receiving the money,” Garcia told The Record.
Garcia said in the situations where the construction was started and not completed, the shells of homes have been exposed to weather for months and are likely not salvageable.
According to Garcia, Paxton’s office was not receiving complaints about Briseno until one consumer’s story was told on a local radio station.
“The flood gates opened,” Garcia said.
The office has now reviewed more than 60 complaints, all telling a similar story. Since the case has been filed, more cases are continuing to come in.
Garcia said this is one of the largest amount of complaints in one case he’s seen since taking his position four years ago.
“To me, the biggest reason why this case is important is because we have had a large number of consumers paying large sums of money in hopes of, in some cases, having their first home and they have little or nothing to show for it,” Garcia said.
Garcia has spoken to several past employees of the construction company who said Briseno wore her heart on her sleeve and meant well but fell behind.
"I don’t know where her heart was but business wise, it doesn’t present a good case,” Garcia said. “People are out money and that’s what really bothers me.”
According to Garcia, Briseno has promised the company will pay people back but it doesn't have the money. Currently, there is no victims fund but any money won in the case will first be paid for restitution.
Garcia said there are also four or five private cases filed against Briseno Construction. Not all of them have also filed complaints with the attorney general's office.
Consumers are able to file complaints with Paxton’s office as well as private lawsuits but may not be able to receive restitution if they do.
Along with restitution, the attorney general’s office is seeking civil penalties, injunctive relief and attorney’s fees.
This week, there will be a hearing on temporary injunction of Briseno.
"We want to prevent any further victims from falling prey to their fraud and misrepresentation,” Garcia said.
The office is still encouraging consumers to file complaints online at the attorney general's website or by calling 800-252-8011.