Contractor Pleads Guilty to Theft Charges After NBC 5 Responds Investigation

His customers thought the man who introduced himself as "Dino Milutinovic" was an honest businessman.

Sophia Gray found him on Craigslist and paid him $4,300 to renovate her backyard. But she said he never returned after receiving the money. Consumers in Tarrant, Dallas, Parker and Ellis counties were faced with the same dilemma. 

"Within this group we have...$26,000 in a very short period of time that this man has taken away from us," said Terry Hill, a North Texas homeowner.

During our investigation, NBC 5 Responds learned "Dino Milutinovic" wasn't the contractor's name after all. His real name is Mario Vila. Vila said his name was tarnished by bad reviews, so he needed to come up with something different to get jobs.

Vila also revealed that his business got out of hand. He took deposits from new customers and used the money to finish other jobs and pay back loans.

"It's still stealing," said John Cole, a homeowner who says he was victimized by Vila. "We all need money, but I don't steal from people."

After our report aired, the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office brought Vila in for questioning. Officers arrested him that day and charged him with theft of service.

"We kind of just thought he was just going to get away with it and we'd lose out," Hill explained.

Nearly a year later, Vila accepted a plea deal, admitting guilt and agreeing to pay his victims back.

The DA's office tells NBC 5 Responds: "We reached an agreement in this case with the defense that ensured every victim in this case was paid back every penny that they lost. The total amount mr vila took from his victims was $39,900. Yesterday he paid back that entire amount."

Hill was shocked by the news, but she's glad she can put all of this behind her.

"Hopefully he realizes he can't go through life ripping people off and thinking he can get away with it, because there's always someone out there who will not let the situation go, and they're going to work until you're held accountable," she said

The DA's office says it is often difficult to recover lost funds in these incidents.  So they're glad the victims in Tarrant County, in this case, were each paid back in full.

The NBC 5 Responds team has recovered more than $700,000 for consumers.  If you have a consumer complaint that you'd like the team to investigate, click here: www.nbcdfw.com/consumer-form/

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