A North Texas contractor accused of ripping off dozens of customers is out on bond. This comes after an NBC 5 Responds investigation that led to his arrest earlier this week. Since our first story aired, we have heard from several more people who say they, too, were ripped off by Mario Vila. The customers are in Tarrant, Ellis, Dallas, Parker and now Collin County.
"I was in shock. I couldn't believe what was on TV," Kendra Seepaul said, after seeing the NBC 5 Responds report about Vila.
She called her neighbors over immediately.
"We just couldn't believe what was happening," she said.
Seepaul paid Vila $11,900 to build a patio in her backyard. She says it looks great now, but she says her husband had to finish the job.
While Vila was working on the project, he signed up two other families in the same neighborhood.
"He was wrapping up the last couple days of working on theirs, doing the final details, and I said, 'OK, Mario, deal. Let's do it,'" Tru Waters said.
Tru and Lisa Waters wrote Vila a check for $5,500 to get the ball rolling. But after missed appointments and countless excuses, they had a feeling Vila wasn't coming back.
"I have been majorly scammed," Tru Water said. "You hear about people, you see it on TV shows, but you would never think it would happen to you."
"We've never seen him again since the day he took the check," said Shelly Ladd.
The Ladds say they were ripped off by Vila, for $7,000.
"You have taken from us ... hard earned money. Money that we struggled to make," Ladd said.
An NBC 5 Responds investigation revealed Vila took thousands of dollars from customers in Tarrant, Dallas, Ellis and Parker counties. Some of his victims shared their stories of regret and frustration.
"How can he get away with stealing thousands of dollars, and not be charged criminally?" Sophia Gray told NBC 5 Responds.
Days after that story aired, Vila was arrested.
"Two state jail felonies and one is a third-degree felony. The third-degree felony is the most severe of the three," said Capt. Jim Moody, with the Collin County Sheriff's Office.
Vila's charges, including "theft of service," carry a potential penalty of two to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
Vila declined NBC 5 Responds's request for an interview after he was booked into the Collin County Jail.
In an open letter he originally wrote to his victims, Vila says he took deposits from new customers and used the money to finish other jobs and pay back loans. He wrote, quote:
"I planned to come up with some type of way to start paying people back as much as I humanly could. I have quit doing business on my own and do not plan on going back."
"I'm hoping along with jail time come repayment of the money that he's stolen," Ladd said.
The victims say they know more people in Collin County who were cheated by Vila, and they hope he will now learn his lesson.
Experts recommend that if you're going to hire a contractor, do your research, trust your instincts, and know to whom you're giving your money.