DENVER — Dreams of a new kitchen turned into a nightmare for many Colorado homeowners who collectively paid a local contractor hundreds of thousands of dollars, only to see him take the money and run.
The company is called Kitchens 4 Less and Herman Hinojosa, the owner, is suspected of stealing from homeowners who paid large deposits for work that was never completed.
In November, Hinojosa filed for bankruptcy leaving his customers high and dry. He claims he’s broke and has no way to finish the jobs he started, but our investigation found Hinojosa is still receiving money from unsuspecting customers.
Arvada resident Christine Wilson lives in the middle of a disaster area. The single mom’s living room is packed full of what used to be in her kitchen leaving a 5 by 10 space to live in.
“This is where we are living. It’s awful. We do homework here, we cook here.” Wilson said.
She hired Hinojosa last summer to remodel her kitchen and bathroom to make it more accessible for her disabled mother.
According to her invoice, Wilson paid Hinojosa the required $9,000 up front. But days turned into months with no work.
“We have an open sewer line in the bathroom. It’s been that way for 5 months. I was very much ripped off.” Wilson said.
She learned about the bankruptcy when she received a notice saying Hinojosa had filed for Chapter 7. The notice listed dozens of people who told us they collectively paid Hinojosa hundreds of thousands of dollars for remodeling work they never received.
“He took everything and he did it knowing he wouldn’t be able to do any of this.” Wilson said.
We went to the Kitchens 4 Less showroom to ask Hinojosa some questions. Hinojosa instead locked us out.
We found another door open and went inside. Hinojosa ran from our cameras turning out lights and ducking behind corners in his warehouse.
Finally, he cracked a door just enough to tell us the allegations are false.
Hinojosa told us he’s, “tried to do everything that was right for these people.”
Hinojosa claims he had a bad year and got in over his head. He told us he has not taken money from anybody since he filed for bankruptcy in November.
Hinojosa said, “I’m not taking anything or doing anything.”
But our investigation found that is not true.
Just two weeks ago, we received a phone call from a woman who asked us not to use her name. The caller said, “I paid him $4,200 to do my cabinets and now I’m finding out he has this investigation going on.”
The cabinets were supposed to be delivered last Wednesday, but they never arrived.
Adams County District Attorney, Dave Young said never pay contractors up front. Colorado statue forbids contractors to require payment before work is done.
“Find out as much information as you can everything you can about a contractor before you enter into a contract with him.” Young said.
As for Hinojosa, Young said he could be facing consumer fraud charges. Prosecutors must prove Hinojosa intended to trip off his alleged victims before they can prosecute the case.
It would not be the first time Hinojosa would face charges. In 1997, he was convicted of felony theft for allegedly writing $10 million in fraudulent checks in Las Vegas.
In 2005, Denver Police arrested him again for felony theft. In that case he pleaded to lesser charges. Hinojosa said his criminal past has nothing to do with his current financial problems.
“Of course I’m sorry,” Hinojosa said.
No one is more sorry than Christine Wilson.
She not only had to live with her mistake, but live in it for months.
“He’s not just a con man, he’s a thief. I don’t’ want this to happen to anybody else,” Wilson said.
A non-profit, Rebuilding Together Metro Denver, put Wilson’s kitchen back together, but dozens of other alleged victims are out of luck.
If you feel you are a victim of Herman Hinojosa, the Adam’s County District Attorney’s office wants you to contact them at 303-835-5633.