PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A dirt lot was not what David Alvarado dreamed his $300,000 retirement home would look like.
“We’re good, honest people that don’t deserve this,” Alvarado said. “We went into a contract in good faith.”
A contract with the builder, Port St. Lucie Properties, was signed last summer.
Investigative Reporter Dave Bohman took an updated look at records at the St. Lucie County Clerk of Courts office. There are now 101 properties with liens filed in the past six months by contractors claiming they were owed money for their work on projects for Port St. Lucie Properties.
As WPTV reported last month, some of the builder's projects were finished and some were partially constructed.
On Alvarado’s property, only the lot was cleared.
“This has significantly set back our family, so I’m trying to do what I can,” Alvarado said. He added that he recently paid off a $19,000 lien on his property filed by the landscaper who cleared this quarter acre.
When Bohman updated the list of liens connected to Port St. Lucie Properties, he found another $800,000 worth filed since his last check in July, bringing the total to $3.79 million dollars in liens made in the last six months.
Port St. Lucie Properties paid off more than $200,000 worth of liens on land it owns.
Some property owners told WPTV they spent tens of thousands of dollars to pay off their liens to avoid foreclosure and St. Lucie police are taking notice.
“Oh it’s definitely a criminal investigation right now,” Port St. Lucie Police Chief Richard Del Toro said, noting eight property owners with contracts with Port St. Lucie Properties filed police reports.
Del Toro adds there could be more.
Homeowners blame builder for allegedly failing to pay contractors
“Let us take a look at it,” Del Toro said. “Let us make sure they’re not involved in any type of alleged fraud, because we don’t want anybody paying extra money or dealing with liens if they don’t have to.”
For two months now, WPTV has been trying to contact Port St. Lucie Properties owner Mark Montalto by showing up at his office, by email, and by phone. But neither he, nor his attorney are communicating.
The St. Lucie County Contractors Examining Board last month barred Montalto from receiving any new building permits for a year. He can continue work on existing permits.
However, that’s no comfort to Alvarado, who said no work has been done on his lot for five months. His family now rents a nearby two-bedroom home.
“Highly uncomfortable," Alvarado said. “Especially with my son and mother-in-law sharing the same room. The psychological, mental, physical strain on my family. You can’t put it into words.”
He said there’s also a financial strain. The disabled veteran thought he’d be living in a house in Port St. Lucie by now, more than a year after he retired and sold his house in Utah.
Instead, he’s stuck with an empty lot. His bank account is emptying as well, and his hopes for ever building a home on his Neal Avenue lot are dimming by the day. His family lives out of boxes in the home he rents.
Alvarado still pays the mortgage for a house where even the foundation hasn’t been built. Add up all his costs, and he said, he’s spent $110,000 with only an empty lot to show for it.
“There’s quite the possibility that I’ll never recover it,” Alvarado said. “I never asked for a handout. I’m a proud veteran and to go through this is heartbreaking.”