Two brothers who run a South Florida construction company says they will fight charges that they loballed labor estimates on bids to scoop up Miami-Dade County public housing contracts.
Javier Estepa and Diego Estepa Vazquez have been charged with wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud, according to a grand jury indictment issued in June.
Their attorneys have denied the allegations.
“At trial we will not only demonstrate the company’s (Aaron Construction) integrity but will show the efforts the company undertook for the protection of the subcontractors who associated with them,” Neil Taylor, Estepa’s attorney of the Law Offices of Neil G. Taylor in Coral Gables, said in an emailed statement. “The Indictment is a rush to judgment conclusion by the government and we are very confident a jury will exonerate both Javier and Diego Estepa.”
Susy Ribero-Ayala, Vazquez’s attorney of The Law Office of Susy Ribero-Ayala in Coral Gables, also denied the allegations.
The Daily Business Review reports the the indictment says the two lead Hialeah Gardens-based Aaron Construction Group Inc. with Estepa, 47, serving as president and Vazquez, 36, as vice-president.
The two underreported the number of workers on a project, falsified the number of hours worked and falsely stated they would have no subcontractors working on a project to land public contracts and profit from repair work on low-income housing managed by the county’s Public Housing and Community Development program.
PHCD, which receives federal money, is one of the largest housing agencies in the U.S. that provides Section 8 rent subsidies and manages low-income public housing, according to its website.
The indictment charged the false bid information allowed Aaron Construction to list lower costs when applying for repair contracts through the competitive bid process.
The lower employee headcount and the fewer work hours that they reported allowed them to “artificially lower company costs, including workers’ compensation insurance premiums and payroll taxes, thereby enabling Estepa and Vazquez to submit false and fraudulent low-ball bids for PHCD work,” the indictment said.
The county awards its repair contracts to the lowest bidders as long as they meets other terms and conditions.
If convicted, each could face up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution.