BOCA RATON, Fla. – When Susan Sabatino saw a "Call Christina" investigation about a contractor walking out on an older couple, the story was all too familiar.
"(It was) exactly to the letter what he had said to me," she said, referencing Alejandro Morlans of Alex Millwork, Inc. "'My heart -- you're hurting my heart. You're a terrible person. I'm a good person.' He was demented."
Like the couple, Sabatino signed a front-loaded contract with Morlans to renovate her Boca Raton apartment. With that type of contract, almost all of the payment for the project is made at the beginning.
After paying him tens of thousands of dollars from her life savings, Sabatino said Morlans made her drive around with him to Lowe's and Home Depot to purchase supplies not included in the $37,000-plus job.
"It really basically came down to the last screw," Sabatino said. "Nothing was covered."
In the original contract from June 2014, Morlans estimated that the project would be completed within six to eight weeks. However, when week 13 rolled around, Sabatino said, he walked off the job, leaving her home in shambles.
"He put a bathtub in without a faucet," she said. "The cabinets were hanging off the walls and partially installed. They were not secure enough to hold a plate. Nothing was up to code."
Sabatino learned that permits were never issued. Morlans told Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation investigators that he informed Sabatino that she needed to get the permits and did not want to because they were too expensive.
"No, he told me he was going to pull the permits," she said.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation told Local 10 News that Morlans is not licensed as a general contractor. On Dec. 4, the agency sent him a notice to cease and desist. The notice said the department "has probable cause to believe that (Morlans) may be practicing as a certified general contractor without the professional license or certification required by Florida law."
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office is also investigating Morlans for possibly violating two Florida state statutes. The first is related to theft and refers to stolen property valued at $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000. The second has to do with licensing.
Morlans told Local 10 News consumer advocate Christina Vazquez that he is not licensed as a general contractor and did not have a license to operate in Boca Raton, but he added that Sabatino knew that when she hired him.
"I'm not a general contractor. She knows exactly I'm not a general contractor," he said. "I don't break any law. The only breaking law is working without (a) license."
He also admitted to cashing her checks and not finishing the work that he was paid to do. When Vazquez asked why he walked out, he provided several different explanations.
"You know why I not finish: First of all, she don't let me work," Morlans said. "It's a nightmare to take all the wallpaper. … I can't do the job because it's too far from me. … I get sick because the house full of black mold. … This is going to cost a lot of time."
Morlans invited Vazquez into his home to give a more thorough explanation, but then his female companion kicked them out.
"Get out of my house. This is my house," she said.
Miami-Dade County property records show that the home registered to Morlans' business is owned by Maria Molina. Molina is also registered as the president of Alex Millwork Inc. with Florida's Division of Corporations.
Sabatino said she believes that the woman is also involved in the business.
"I think that they play the game together," she said. "He's just -- I don't understand how people like this exist."?
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office told Local 10 that it has an active and ongoing investigation into the matter.
Chelsea Eagle of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation told Local 10 that the investigation "is ongoing with DBPR, and final action is pending."
The DBPR indicated on an investigative report that Sabatino paid Morlans "a total of $40,256." That is more than the initial contract amount of $37,169.
Sabatino said she then paid an additional $26,000 to a new contractor to both repair the work Morlans started and complete the projects he abandoned. She told Local 10 that she is very satisfied with her current contractor, Matt Bianco of BC Building and Remodeling LLC.
The DBPR's jurisdiction is limited to administrative law, which may include administrative fines being issued.
Unlicensed activity is a violation of criminal law. In those cases, the DBPR forwards all notices to cease and desist to the local state attorney's office for potential criminal prosecution.
When asked if they have opened a case into Alejandro Morlans, Natalie Cruz with the office of State Attorney Dave Aronberg replied, "After a diligent search, no records were found under such criteria."
In the case of the Francois family from northwest Miami-Dade County, Vazquez was able to get both parties to the table to ensure that the Francois family got the granite countertops for which they paid.
Follow Christina Vazquez on Twitter @CallChristinaTV
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