BROOKSVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) – A contractor at the center of a Better Call Behnken investigation was recently arrested by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office and charged with grand theft.
The state attorney’s office alleges Angel Diaz collected $24,500 from an assisted living facility and failed to do any work. Diaz’s companies are Air Masters of Hernando County and Excellent Trades of Florida.
Meanwhile, Diaz, already under investigation by Hernando building officials for unlicensed work, now faces new allegations of working with a permit.
The homeowner in that case, Lazaro Ruiz, turned to Better Call Behnken after learning the work Diaz did at his home was not permitted correctly and may have to be torn down.
The porch tile that was added to the back is not level and water pools in the middle.
“I don’t even come outside,” Ruiz said. “I open the door, let the dog out and I keep the curtains closed. I don’t want to look outside.”
The work wasn’t completed, and Ruiz says inspectors say even the new roof that was installed doesn’t have the right roof pitch. The roof job was red-tagged by the county.
Making matters worse, Ruiz is on the hook to pay for all of the work: a $26,000 loan attached to his property taxes and added to his mortgage payments.
Payments that he says start now, even though the work is not done.
“He’s destroyed our lives,” Ruiz said. “And it’s not fair that he’s out there doing work on other people’s homes. He should not be allowed to go to somebody’s house.”
Ruiz is the second homeowner to call Better Call Behnken complaining of Angel Diaz, unfinished work and a big loan.
Both homeowners called Diaz for air conditioning work and were convinced to hire him for multiple upgrades. Both homeowners say they were told their work could be financed through the Pace program through Ygrene Energy Fund.
In one case, Ygrene fired Diaz from their program and agreed to pay for the work to be finished. However, in Ruiz’s case, a Ygrene spokesman says only the roof should have been covered by the loan. Other things, such as the porch, are not covered items.
Ygrene sent this statement:
“The homeowner received all of the PACE program disclosures and participated in a terms verification call. During the terms verification call, the homeowner confirmed the scope of work and his understanding of the financing terms, which made clear that he should not sign the completion document until all of the PACE contracted work was completed.
“Most importantly, the homeowner in this case has a dispute with the contractor he hired to perform work on his home for improvements not related to the PACE financing. Ygrene provides the financing for PACE-eligible improvements. Issues related to the installation and workmanship are covered under a separate agreement between the homeowner and the contractor. Simply, the homeowner’s dispute does not involve Ygrene at all.”
As for the grand theft charge, Amy Vickery of Crown Point Communities in Indiana tells Investigative Reporter Shannon Behnken that Diaz talked the assisted living facility management into hiring him to install a new air conditioning unit.
They paid a deposit of $24,000 for the large unit. Then she says Diaz disappeared and never did any work.
“We don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” she says. “It’s so wrong.”
One of Diaz’s companies will face a county Special Master hearing on Monday, Nov. 4 and next month, on three separate cases.
His criminal arraignment is set for Wednesday, Nov. 6.
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