Two contractors convicted of bilking Miami-Dade for public housing repairs

Two South Florida contractors face potentially long prison sentences after being found guilty in federal court Wednesday of bilking Miami-Dade County for renovation work on various low-income housing projects.

Javier Estepa, 48, and Diego Alejandro Estepa Vasquez, 37, president and vice president of Aaron Construction Group, were convicted of wire-fraud conspiracy, wire fraud and making false statements to county officials about their bids, number of employees and hourly wages for public housing repairs between 2014 and 2016. Miami-Dade Public Housing and Community Development paid the contractors $3.9 million based on their fraudulent representations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The two men are scheduled for sentencing May 10 before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro, who presided over their jury trial in Miami. Estepa, of Davie, and Vasquez, of Boca Raton, each faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and up to five years for making false statements.

At trial, evidence showed that in their bids, the two men falsely represented that no subcontractors would be hired for the renovation work, that each worker would be paid hourly wages including overtime and that Aaron Construction would obtain workers’ compensation insurance. Instead, prosecutors Joshua Rothstein and John Gonsoulin showed that Aaron Construction hired subcontractors at very low wages and tried to pass them off as company employees.

The prosecutors said Aaron Construction failed to provide accurate payroll reports on the hours that employees worked on job sites and the type of work that they did. They were not paid the appropriate wages, including overtime, under the terms of Aaron’s contract with the county.