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A man paid to build houses, tore them down, stole money: the feds

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A man left couples with demolished homes after being paid to build new ones — and ended up stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars, prosecutors say.

A man left couples with demolished homes after being paid to build new ones — and ended up stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars, prosecutors say.

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A man left couples with demolished homes after being paid to build new ones — and ended up stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars, prosecutors say.

A Virginia construction worker now faces up to 20 years in federal prison for failing to do the work he was paid to do, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Instead, prosecutors say he spent his clients’ money on other projects and on himself.

One couple lost more than $278,000 and another couple lost $250,000 after hiring the man, court documents show.

Pedro Felipe Valdes Sanchez, 57, of Centerville, pleaded guilty to defrauding his clients November 8, the prosecutor’s office announced in a press release.

“Ultimately, Valdez performed minimal work at these clients’ homes, sometimes only demolishing an existing residence on the clients’ property,” the release said.

McClatchy News reached out to Valdez’s attorney for comment on Nov. 10 and was awaiting a response.

The “scheme” of the builder

According to prosecutors, between May 2017 and April 2018, homeowners in the McClean area, a community about 10 miles west of Washington, D.C., were defrauded through Valdez’s “scheme” after hiring him to build or remodel homes.

Several couples hired Valdez through his construction company, Artifact LLC, according to court documents. At the same time, Valdes and his company were working on other properties owned by his brother’s companies.

While “Valdez successfully completed projects for his brother’s companies …,” he did not successfully complete projects for his clients, according to the statement of facts.

In June 2017, one couple hired Valdez to demolish their home and build a $520,000 custom home on the same lot, the statement of facts shows.

That couple paid Valdez a $52,000 deposit for pre-construction expenses, but prosecutors say he didn’t use the money on their home. Instead, he spent them on a property he was working on for his brother.

Over the next several months, Valdez continued to spend money from the couple’s deposit on expenses unrelated to their new home, court documents state.

Through March 2018, the couple paid Valdez $278,466 for permit applications, the demolition of their old home, excavation and foundation and framing costs for the new home, according to the statement of facts.

However, Valdez and his company spent only $49,000 on “minimal work,” specifically demolishing the old house, excavation and permits, according to prosecutors.

As a result, the couple, who were left with only the demolished property, asked for their money back, according to the deed. Valdez’s company returned the $20,000, but Valdez soon filed for bankruptcy. This resulted in the couple having to give up $20,000.

As of Nov. 8, the couple had not returned the money they paid Valdez, court documents show.

In a similar but separate case, Valdez left another couple with a demolished home after they hired him to build their own home on their property, according to a statement of facts.

Of the $250,000 the couple paid Valdez, he stole $15,000 in cash withdrawals and checks he wrote to himself for personal expenses, the statement of facts shows.

The couple eventually terminated the contract with Valdez, who never returned his $250,000 after failing to complete the work he was paid to do, according to the facts.

Valdez now faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, prosecutors say.

However, “actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties,” the release said.

Valdez’s sentencing is scheduled for February 14, the release said.

Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the Southeast and Northeast while based in New York. She is a graduate of The College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. She has previously written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and others.

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