GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Everyone trying to rebuild or repair a home in our post-Katrina world knows obstacles pop up. But when allegations of repair fraud surface, the obstacles become much greater.
Action Reporter AJ Giardina investigates complaints from two Gulfport residents who say the work they paid for was never done.
"Sam told me that he's a contractor, he's legit and he said that he was willing to build me a home," Warren Howard said. "And after going through the storm and stuff, he said, 'I will do you right.'"
On January 17, 2007 Howard signed a contract with Sam Mineo to build a new home in Gulfport on Howard's lot for $188,000. Plans were drawn up and Howard thought things were moving along.
"So I gave a down payment, a total of $35,000, and all of a sudden I didn't hear nothing from him."
Howard says he's not only out of money, he says he lost something else.
"This is money that I got from the SBA, so I've got to pay that back and wait until he gets things straightened out. It's costing me. It's costing me my dignity. And, hey, this happened to me and also happened to other people. They need to know what's going on," Howard said.
WLOX News actually met Sam Mineo in September of 2006 when he watched one of our Action Reports and donated a travel trailer to a homeless couple in Saucier.
During that interview, he told us, "We've been through a lot down here. If everybody would lend everybody a hand, we'll get through this as quick as possible."
But one and a half years later, it's a different story. The last time Howard spoke with Mineo was two months ago when Mineo was working on his neighbor's home. Howard says he demanded his money back.
"He told me and said, 'I am broke.' I said, 'What? I know you didn't take my money that I paid down on my house for me and spent it somewhere else.' 'Mr. Howard, I'm just broke. I don't have no money,'" Howard remembered.
Down the street from Howard is the home of William Liermann. He showed us the condition of his home after Mineo walked off the job. He has no kitchen or bathroom cabinets, no toilets and no light fixtures. Liermann said it's going to cost him an additional $30,000 to finish the job.
Mineo Homes had an office on Pass Road in Gulfport, but it's now closed. The real estate company left a notice on the door for failure to pay monthly installment for rent. If you try calling the various telephone numbers listed for Mineo Homes, they are no longer in service.
Mineo Homes is listed on the Mississippi State Board of Contractors website, but a spokesman there told WLOX News the board is also investigating Mineo Homes.
The State Attorney General's office is investigating three complaints against Sam Mineo. If you have information about him, you can call the AG's office at (228) 386-4400.
By AJ Giardina