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ABC-7 Investigates: Construction, solar company accused of fraud; owner wanted

EL PASO, Texas – A judge has issued a criminal arrest warrant for an El Paso businessman accused of deceptive business practices while various lawsuits of similar nature against him lay dormant in civil court.

Mark Hernandez, 43, owner of two now-defunct businesses, American Solar Group, and American Roofing Pros, is accused of breach of contract and forgery, according to court records.

In one civil court case, Hernandez is accused of using a man’s electronic signature, without his permission, to get a $100,000 loan for a work contract.

The criminal case that led to his arrest warrant accuses him of taking $30,000 for a roof replacement project, but only completing 25% of the work.

ABC-7 began looking into Mark Hernandez and his two businesses after two former customers reached out to us in late 2021 with concerns of fraud.

ABC-7 then began several months of digging into court records and conducting interviews. 

We reached out to the El Paso County Attorney’s Office in late December of 2021 to see if it was familiar with Hernandez and his companies. We were told nothing was being prosecuted at the time, but four police reports had been filed in the county.

ABC-7 obtained three of those reports earlier this year from the El Paso Police Department, and one recently from the Horizon City Police Department following requests under the Texas Public Information Act. 

Three criminal cases remain under investigation and one is inactive, according to the county attorney’s office.

After ABC-7 began asking questions about Hernandez and his businesses, the county attorney’s office filed the criminal misdemeanor charge on February 17 that prompted the arrest warrant.

We recently learned from the county attorney’s office it received a fifth case from the El Paso Police Department and it’s currently under review.

ABC-7 looked on the civil side, too. We had the El Paso District Clerk’s Office do a records search to confirm there were nine civil cases filed against Hernandez and his businesses, starting in 2018. Four of them remain active.

The latest lawsuit was filed on January 14, 2022, by Gabriel Garcia, of El Paso.

Garcia, who says he’s a former client of Mark Hernandez, gave us a tour of his property and explained a huge hole in his backyard was meant for a swimming pool. Garcia said it was dug two years ago.

“You know, you can imagine the feelings that go by. I couldn’t sleep for a couple days; well, even to this day I’m like, you know, you see the mess in the backyard and it’s just mind blowing,” Garcia said to ABC-7 in an interview.

Garcia’s lawsuit accuses Hernandez of violating the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and breach of contract.

The lawsuit maintains Garcia entered into an agreement in June 2020 with Hernandez and his company, American Roofing Pros, for a new roof, costing roughly $40,000.

After signing the original roofing contract, the lawsuit accuses Hernandez, along with his wife and a financial group, of persuading Garcia to sign a new contract for a roof, solar panels and a swimming pool to the tune of $100,000.

Garcia says he never got a chance to look at the new contract, and that Hernandez used his electronic signature on the loan without his consent.

Garcia told ABC-7 he has to pay back that loan even though the project remains unfinished, and his life has changed.

“It’s been two years since I had the grandkids over to play in the backyard. I had beautiful sprinkler grass back there, Bermuda grass and we used to always have barbecues and stuff, but I haven’t been able to do anything of that,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s lawsuit claims four months into the pool work, he received a “notice of violation” from the City of El Paso’s Planning and Inspections Department saying his pool was being constructed without a permit and the hole must be filled. Garcia said it will cost him $10,000 to reverse the damage done to his backyard.

Jaime Gandara, Garcia’s attorney, told ABC-7 his office has been unable to find Hernandez to serve him with the lawsuit.

Efforts to locate Hernandez

ABC-7 has also been unable to reach Mark Hernandez for comment about the latest criminal charge, or lawsuits.

We’ve made attempts to call Hernandez at three separate listed numbers, but no one answered.

Both of Hernandez’s last-known office locations, one off of North Mesa Street, and the other off of George Dieter, are closed. The company’s signage is gone.

We called his wife, Jessica Hernandez, who is listed as a defendant in the Gabriel Garcia lawsuit. She told us she did not want to speak on camera about the lawsuits, but said in a phone call that she had no idea what was going on with the businesses, and is in the process of divorcing her husband. ABC-7 confirmed through court records Jessica Hernandez did file for divorce in March.

ABC-7 wants to be transparent about this story. ABC-7’s parent company, News-Press and Gazette, sued Mark Hernandez for $68,000 in unpaid advertisement fees in 2021, and prevailed. Our newsroom was not aware of this lawsuit before we started our investigation and only learned when we were searching the county’s civil case website. 

ABC-7 also reached out to Hernandez’s listed attorney, Michael Nevarez. He never returned our multiple phone calls or emails.  We even went to his office twice, but never got past a secretary. The secretary told us Nevarez does not see people without an appointment so we tried to schedule one. She then told us Mr. Nevarez said he would not being doing any interviews about his client, Mark Hernandez.

It started with a roofing job

Jorge Ybarra, of Horizon, has also accused Mark Hernandez of deceptive business practices. ABC-7 sat down with him as part of this ongoing investigation back in February.  His wife Debra, and their attorney, Brian Kennedy, were present for the interview.

The Ybarra’s say they met with Hernandez and his sales representatives last August and they signed a contract for roof replacement and solar panel installation that would cost roughly $38,000.

Ybarra says he was skeptical because workers never actually went on the roof of his home to survey it.

“They never came out to inspect it. They did everything via Google Earth. They took photos via Google Earth,” Garcia explained.

When the time came to start the job, Ybarra said the workers discovered a problem. He said more construction materials were needed and Hernandez asked for $27,000 more.

Not in agreement with the new price tag, Ybarra said Hernandez dropped the price and a second contract was drawn up for an additional $17,000. Ybarra said the loan never got approved by the bank.

Ybarra says no work has been done since, and the roof remains unfinished. Ybarra said the solar panels were installed, but never connected.

Ybarra tells ABC-7 the bank paid the initial $38,000 loan directly to Hernandez.

With the money in the hand of the contractor, Ybarra said he could never get ahold of Hernandez about finishing the job.

“He won’t return phone calls. He won’t return anything to the bank as well,” Ybarra said.

Despite the unfinished project, Ybarra said he continues to make the $139 monthly loan payment, and a materials company has placed a lien on his home because Hernandez never paid the company for the products used for the job.

In addition to filing a police report, the Ybarra’s plan to sue Mark Hernandez for damages, however, their attorney, Brian Kennedy, says his office has yet to find Hernandez to serve him with the lawsuit.

Business status

A search on the Texas Comptroller’s website shows Hernandez’s companies, American Solar, and American Roofing Pros, are no longer active. Spokesman Kevin Lyons told ABC-7 both companies lost their right to transact business in the state back in February because Hernandez did not file his 2021 franchise tax reports, but explained Hernandez can always file at a later date and get a late charge.

According to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) spokeswoman Tela Goodwin Mange, any company in Texas offering to install solar or have solar installed must be a licensed electrical contractor and they have to have a licensed electrician do the work.

Hernandez’s American Solar website has been taken down; however, we took screenshots of his page before it went offline. On his site, it claimed American Solar Group was, at the time, “licensed to install solar panels.”

Mange told ABC-7 she was unable to locate a license for American Solar Group.

Today, the website for American Roofing Pros, LLC is still active.

At this time, the arrest warrant from El Paso County remains active, and ABC-7 has still not been able to get in touch with him.

It’s unclear where he is, and if he’s still conducting business today under some business name. 

Former partner sues

At a virtual civil hearing on May 10, which ABC-7 monitored, Mark Hernandez was present. He’s being sued by a former business partner, Todd Peterson, for breach of contract.

During that hearing, Todd Peterson’s attorney, Brian Kennedy, told El Paso Judge Linda Chew he’s asked Hernandez and his attorney, Michael Nevarez, to turn over documentation since last year. Kennedy said because nothing has been sent to him he filed a motion to compel in March. The judge did grant that motion and she gave Hernandez and his attorney until June 1 at 5 p.m. to turn over all the documents Kennedy has requested on behalf of his client.

Hernandez remained silent at the hearing, but when asked by Judge Chew if he understood what was discussed he said yes.

Hernandez’s attorney, Michael Nevarez, told the judge he had not been able to get in touch with this client.

“I’ve advised Mr. Hernandez that if (if) he doesn’t cooperate in helping me fashion his sworn answers to the interrogatories that I’d have to file a motion to withdraw,” Nevarez told the judge at the May 10 virtual hearing.

A bench trial is set for this case on October 5.

Resources for clients

ABC-7 reached out to the FBI and the Texas Attorney General’s Office for comment about Mark Hernandez and his businesses.

Both said they can neither confirm nor deny investigations, but both offices said people should contact them if they feel they are a victim of fraud.

You can call the FBI’s tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

To file a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office, which enforces the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, click here.

To reach the El Paso County Attorney’s Office, Deceptive Business Practices division, call 915-546-2050 or click here.

Lesley Engle

Dylan McKim

Comments

12 Comments

          1. You’re guilty until you prove your innocence nitwit. Psychos like you don’t get any due process. Now STFU!

          2. The suspect is in the wind, with multiple arrest warrants. Sounds like something you would do!

    1. I get maybe two door to door monkeys trying to sell me solar panels. I tell them I would never buy $10,000 of anything from a door to door salesman.

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