4
| Crime |

Miami-Dade Construction Firm Owners Convicted of Ripping Off Affordable-Housing Program

^
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

It's no secret the Miami area desperately needs affordable housing. The city often ranks among the worst for renters; research shows Miamians spend more of their incomes on housing than residents of any other U.S. city. Wages aren't keeping up with housing prices. Meanwhile, the city has a glut of empty million-dollar condos.

None of this stopped the leaders of a Hialeah Gardens-based company from ripping off the county's affordable housing program. Javier Estepa and Diego Alejandro Estepa Vasquez, president and vice president of Aaron Construction Group, were convicted in federal court last week of defrauding Miami-Dade Public Housing and Community Development, which manages more than 9,000 units of public and mixed-income housing.

"While my clients regret the verdict, they respect the jury’s decision and the time and attention devoted by the individual jurors," attorney Neil G. Taylor tells New Times.

According to the indictment, Estepa and Estepa Vasquez's general contracting firm was chosen to renovate and repair public housing developments after submitting fraudulent bids. The pair falsely claimed they wouldn't be using subcontractors, misrepresented the number of workers employed on the project, and falsified the number of hours being worked. They also underpaid workers, violating federal law requiring laborers on federally funded projects earn prevailing wages.

"lt was the purpose of the conspiracy for Javier Estepa and Diego Alejandro Estepa Vasquez and their co-conspirators to unlawfully enrich themselves," the indictment said.

The scheme worked: Public Housing and Community Development transferred more than $3.9 million to bank accounts controlled by the two before they were caught. They are among several developers prosecuted federally for scamming Miami-Dade's affordable housing program. In one major case, executives at Carlisle Development Group and Biscayne Housing Group pleaded guilty in 2015 to stealing affordable housing funds in a scheme that cost taxpayers $36 million.

In the Aaron Construction Group case, Estepa and Estepa Vasquez were convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud, as well as charges of making false statements to a federal agency.

They could face up to 20 years for each count of wire fraud and five years for each count of making a false statement.  

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.