Contractor accepted $ 26,000 for home repairs without replacing leaky pipes, images show
HELOTES, Texas –A Helotes woman has filed a police report accusing a San Antonio area contractor of theft nearly a year after accepting full payment for the work without replacing the pipes under her house.
Angela Morales paid Michael Smith $ 26,000 to level and support the foundation of his house and to replace the cast iron pipes with PVC pipes, according to records viewed by KSAT 12 Defenders.
But weeks after Smith told Morales the work was complete, a plumber called home this winter over an unrelated clog informed her the pipes were still cast iron.
Images obtained by the Defenders show that as of February 22, the pipes were still made of iron. The Defenders also used a GoPro camera to record footage of the cast iron pipes last month.
“I feel stupid. I feel embarrassed. I feel exploited. I am angry. I am excited trying to find that money to pay for this job again,” Morales told Defenders.
Morales had searched for a contractor last year after noticing issues with his foundation that were causing problems inside his home, including cracked tiles and drywall.
A static sewer test later revealed that the cast iron pipes under his house were leaking and also needed to be replaced, according to Morales.
After Morales contacted Smith, who claimed to be the owner and operator of the Pier Pro Foundation, he told her his company would install dozens of exterior and interior pillars and replace the plumbing in the kitchen and bathroom. by PVC pipes.
Morales paid Smith $ 13,000 upfront in late October 2020, followed by payments of $ 5,000 and then $ 8,000 at the end of December, according to financial records obtained by the Defenders.
Smith then informed her in early January that all work described in the signed contract had been completed and that workers had backfilled the tunnels with soil, according to Morales.
Red flags appear
Weeks after believing the work was done, Morales said red flags regarding Smith and the founding company began to appear.
In February, Morales was forced to call a plumber at her home over a clogged pipe.
Using a small camera, the plumber took photos inside the pipes in Morales’s house, which revealed they were still cast iron.
After Morales called Smith, he denied the job was not finished.
“Of course I was there when they replaced cast iron with PVC. I think you might have some cast iron coming out of your septic tank going under the house right there. But it’s PVC under your kitchen, going to the bathroom and everything, ”Smith said in a voicemail message left with Morales in February.
Smith, however, conceded in an email sent to Defenders late last month that the plumbing was not complete.
“Without any kind of foundation expertise myself, I trusted him. He said he had been in business for about 30 years. I had no reason not to trust him, ”Morales said.
Morales said, looking back, that Smith’s repeated insistence that she hire him to start work immediately should have signaled her something was wrong.
“I was absolutely afraid to hire her and have to do these repairs quickly,” said Morales, who admitted that she had never seen PVC pipe among the materials brought home for the project.
Morales said a review of her bank statements revealed that the three checks she wrote to the Pier Pro Foundation were cashed at ACE Cash Express, a payday lender that has been frequently sued for its business practices. A class action lawsuit filed and settled in Texas against the financial services provider accused it of being an illegal loan sharking transaction, federal court records show.
Niether Pier Pro Foundation or Smith have been involved in any wrongdoing associated with ACE Cash Express.
Several people who hired Smith said he presented a document from the San Antonio Developmental Services Department stating that he was a licensed contractor.
The document, however, does not include Smith’s name. A DSD spokeswoman told Defenders Smith was not listed as the owner of the Pier Pro Foundation or as a representative of the company, which means he cannot revoke permits from the city on his behalf .
The spokeswoman added that there was no document from the city that actually linked Smith to the company and officials had failed to reach its registered owner.
The woman listed in the records as the owner of the Pier Pro Foundation lives in central Texas, according to public records. She did not respond to calls for comment from defenders to several phone numbers associated with her.
Morales hired a lawyer to help her process any possible claims against Smith, but said she couldn’t go ahead with filing a complaint. She told the Defenders that she used her down payment by unsuccessfully trying to serve Smith with a certified letter asking her to come back and finish the job.
A foundation rider included in Morales’s homeowner’s insurance policy covered part of the repairs, but she said those funds had been exhausted and any future repairs were entirely her responsibility.
After defenders contacted Smith to request an interview late last month, he responded by email that he was out of town but had sent workers to return to work at Morales’s home.
Morales said workers showed up at her home and dug tunnels for the third time, but have yet to complete the additional plumbing work under the house.
Advocates have visited the Pier Pro Foundation’s listed business addresses in San Antonio and New Braunfels, but both sites are now occupied by independent companies.
An official from the town of Helotes confirms that the permit issued for the repair of the foundations remains open.
A theft report filed with Helotes police by Morales on October 19 accuses Smith of accepting full payment for a week he failed to perform.
A Helotes police detective assigned to its criminal investigation division confirmed that the investigation was still ongoing.
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