TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – In a three-month window of time earlier this year, a split-level home on Osborne Street went from termite damaged to termite and damage-free without any treatment, according to a pair of contrasting inspection reports.
But according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the second inspection was ‘fictitious’ and conducted by 65-year-olf Juan “Joe” Mendoza of Thonotosassa is now charged with three felonies for forgery and fraud over $50,000 and three misdemeanors for advertising pest control services without a license.
The first Wood Destroying Organism (WDO) inspection from January was conducted by a licensed exterminator who stated there was visible evidence of wood-destroying insects.
That WDO report was filed only days before a deal to buy the split-level fell through. That would-be buyer is unknown to 8 On Your Side and the seller, Darlene Allen, said she did know about the report.
Three months later, Mendoza inspected the property and reported no signs of termites in an April WDO report.
Jonah Huggins, who signed an agreement to buy the home around that time, said he believed Mendoza’s report and Allen’s disclosures. But he discovered termites and damage a short time after the deal closed.
Huggins is now suing Allen, her realtor Laura Keyes and Keyes’ broker Dalton Wade, alleging fraud, negligence and asking the court to rescind the contract and force Allen to buy back the property.
None of the defendants have responded to requests for comment.
Huggins is not alone in being impacted by Mendoza WDO reports blamed by the FDACS for “falsely declaring homes free of termite infestation.”
“The WDO inspection reports were then relied upon by unsuspecting home buyers to obtain loans with financial institutions,” an FDACS statement said.
Mendoza, whose public defender has not responded to a request for comment, was also fined three times in connection with other jobs.
Noah Garcia said Mendoza treated his mother’s Tampa home for termites in 2018, but the bugs came back. According to Garcia, an FDACS agent said the state had been looking for Mendoza “for quite a while.”
At the time, an FDACS investigator wrote in an email that he had 10 weekly customers and received job leads from a realtor.
FDACS spokesperson Erin Moffit said she could not comment about whether the agency will investigate how realtors may have been involved with Mendoza’s alleged crimes.
According to the Florida Department of Business and Profession Regulation (DBPR), Keyes and the other realtor named by the FDACS investigator do not have any public complaints against them.
Since 2018, FDACS has fined Mendoza three times for a total of about $19,000 but records show he has not paid any of the fines.