TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Joe Mendoza was tracked for about three years by state investigators who warned him about working as an exterminator without a license, but the warrant that led to his arrest reveals he didn’t stop until he was arrested.
Mendoza, 65, of Thonotosassa, is now charged with five felonies for forgery and fraud greater than $50,000 and three misdemeanors for illegally advertising a pest control business.
The arrest warrant offered details of alleged illegal work performed at five addresses in Tampa, Seffner and Riverview by Mendoza’s one-man operation Joe’s Pest Control.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) investigators, who conducted surveillance on Mendoza, had previously stated he said he had a steady stream of about 10 weekly customers and received referrals from local realtors.
The charges against Mendoza involve creating fraudulent Wood Destroying Organism (WDO) reports, a key document in the sale of Florida Homes.
Mendoza was warned twice since 2018 to stop his pest control work, according to the warrant that also detailed Jonah Huggins’ purchase of an East Osborne Street home.
Huggins, an Army Veteran, said he was fooled by Mendoza’s WDO report that indicated no signs of insects in the home. But about 10 days after the closing there were swarms of termites, according to Huggins. He also found damage in several areas of the home.
“The seller’s realtor, Laura Keyes, allegedly chose Joe’s Pest Control,” the warrant said.
Keyes was also the seller’s realtor when a January inspection report for the conducted by a licensed exterminator indicated there were signs of termites in the East Osborne Street home. A buyer contracted to purchase the property at that time backed out of the deal only days after that WDO report was signed.
According to the warrant, Keyes told investigators she did not know Mendoza was unlicensed.
Keyes, her broker Dalton Wade and the seller of the East Osborne Home Darlene Allen have not responded to requests for comment.
They’re all defendants in Huggins’ lawsuit that accuses Keyes of negligence and the sellers of fraudulent non-disclosure.
Huggins’ attorney Alex Mindrup said sellers are required to amend the disclosures if a new deficiency is uncovered in an inspection.
“It is unlawful for him to withhold that,” Mindrup said. “When you tell someone, your house is riddled with termites and they’ve been there for god knows how long, that’s going to be a very hard sell.”
Mindrup, who specializes in this type of real estate case, said he has seen more legal disputes during Florida’s white hot real estate market.
“More people are flipping homes, selling homes, and you can’t get as much money or even sell them if there are problems,” Mindrup said. “That is where fraud sometimes enters the picture.”
FDACS spokesperson Erin Moffet said she could not answer additional questions about the Mendoza case.
“Our investigation into Joe’s Pest Control remains active,” Moffet said. “Therefore, we cannot disclose additional information beyond what has already been reported.”