SAN ANTONIO – A convicted thief who was once referred to by a judge as a “wolf who preys on the sheep of society" is now accused of carrying out a similar scheme after his release from jail last year.
Carlos Elizondo, 47, has been accused of theft in criminal complaints filed against him by former fencing and lawn care customers in at least three San Antonio-area jurisdictions in recent months, records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders reveal. He has not yet been criminally charged in any of the new cases.
Elizondo was sentenced to four years in jail in late 2017, after prosecutors moved to revoke his probation on four previous theft convictions when he racked up new charges.
A San Antonio Police Department detective assigned to investigate Elizondo discovered a pattern: Elizondo would introduce himself as a police officer or sheriff’s deputy, take a partial payment for lawn care or fencing work and fail to complete the job.
Elizondo accumulated 10 theft charges in less than three years, between 2014 and 2017, three of which included elderly victims, according to court records and this reporter’s previous coverage of him and his company, Lawn Enforcement Rescue Services.
But after Judge Wayne Christian sentenced Elizondo to serve one-year in jail for each of the convictions, sentences Judge Christian had ordered to run consecutively, the judge himself worried that Elizondo would be released long before his jail terms expired.
“I recommend to the sheriff of Bexar County that he keep you in jail day for day, although I have no authority to do that, the sheriff does,” Christian said during the November 2017 sentencing hearing.
Court records show Elizondo was released from custody in early January 2019, which means he served less than a third of his four-year sentence.
“Makes me sick to my stomach.”
After seeing an advertisement on Facebook, Lisa Fairchild hired C. Rene Elizondo and his company, Alamo Fence Co., in June to redo the backyard of her far West Side home.
The more than $5,400 contract, which Fairchild paid in full, called for Elizondo to replace the home’s privacy fence, install new gates, build a wooden deck and lay down new sod.
“Ironically, my husband was there that day and he even made the comment to him. He’s like, ‘this is against my better judgment because I usually investigate people first,’” Fairchild said.
She said she paid for one-third of the job up front, then made the mistake of paying off the remaining two-thirds of the balance while the work was being done, instead of holding the final payment until the job was completed.
The fence, gates and deck all have obvious structural issues, including a large gap along a section of the bottom of the fence that allows people on the street to see into Fairchild’s yard.
“We would go weeks without ever hearing from him,” Fairchild said. “It just continued on, the excuse after excuse of not showing up or not coming to have any work done.”
Fairchild said Elizondo eventually walked off the job before beginning the sod installation process and without repairing issues with the gates, fence and deck.
She said after searching the internet, she finally made the realization that C. Rene Elizondo was actually Carlos Elizondo.
Rene is Elizondo’s legal middle name, according to a background check of him.
“Makes me sick to my stomach that I kind of got suckered into this. I know better than that. My husband and I know better than that,” said Fairchild, who filed a theft complaint against Elizondo with SAPD on Aug. 24.
Investigators told Fairchild it was a civil matter.
Hesitant to file a small claims lawsuit against Elizondo for fear it would be delayed several months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fairchild instead requested mediation through the Bexar County Dispute Resolution Center.
Fairchild said, to date, she has been unable to resolve her issues with Elizondo.
Fairchild was one of 12 people who provided the Defenders records in recent months showing they hired Elizondo without knowing his criminal history and paid him for work that was either never completed or in some cases never started.
A theft complaint filed with the Schertz Police Department last month accuses Elizondo of accepting a $1,600 check to install new grass at a woman’s home and then not beginning the work.
A Schertz PD spokesperson said the case has been forwarded to its criminal investigation division.
Crystal and Damian McMillan hired Elizondo this summer to build a backyard deck for their Converse-area home.
Like Fairchild, the McMillans were told the $1,800 project would require three payments.
But after paying Elizondo $1,200, the McMillans said he abandoned the job after installing four wood posts in concrete.
Ring camera footage shows Elizondo accepting an envelope with $600 cash from Crystal McMillan on Aug. 21.
It was the last time he showed up at their property.
“I’m very angry. We work hard for our money not just to hand it out,” Damian McMillan said.
Crystal McMillan said she realized Rene Elizondo was actually Carlos Elizondo after recalling how she made her initial payment for the work.
“I remember when we sent him the money through Zelle he gave me his first name and I input that, and that’s when I started coming up with all the articles,” said Crystal McMillan.
The McMillans reported Elizondo to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office late last month.
BCSO officials confirm the agency is now investigating.
Crystal McMillan shared text messages with the Defenders showing that Elizondo claimed a reimbursement check was on its way to her.
Elizondo has not responded to texts from Crystal McMillan since Sept. 18, and the couple has still not received any sort of reimbursement.
What’s in a name?
Elizondo’s return to the fencing and lawn care industry is notable because it contradicts a promise he made during his 2017 sentencing hearing.
While asking Christian to allow Elizondo to enter a work-release program instead of staying in jail, Elizondo’s attorney, Ben Stephenson, made the following statements:
“He has agreed to me, he has agreed to his family that his contracting days are over. He’s done being a contractor.”
Stephenson, according to KSAT 12 footage of the hearing and an official transcript of the proceeding, even went as far as to allow the judge to make it a probation violation if Elizondo was found to being doing contracting work.
“If the court doubts that he is done being a contractor, then we challenge the court to consider extending his probation to the maximum length for probation and making it a probation violation for him to do any more contracting work,” Stephenson said.
Christian denied the request.
Stephenson said via telephone last week he no longer represents Elizondo and is not familiar with his former client’s activities since Elizondo got out of jail.
The name used by Elizondo to conduct business in recent months, Alamo Fence Co., is strikingly similar to the Alamo Fence Company of San Antonio, Inc., which has been in business since the early 1980′s and is registered as a taxable entity in Texas.
The Defenders could find no record that Alamo Fence Co. was ever registered with the state comptroller, and invoices from Elizondo’s new company do not contain a tax ID number.
Reached by telephone, the office manager of the Alamo Fence Company of San Antonio said he receives a couple calls each month from people looking for Elizondo, but that police have told the owners of the company there is not much they can do about Elizondo using a similar name.
Days after the Defenders reached out to Elizondo via telephone and email requesting an interview for this story, he emailed some of his former customers that he was closing down his business.
Elizondo blamed the shut down on rising timber prices and the cost of purchasing building materials, according to a copy of the email provided to the Defenders.
Elizondo ended the email by promising that refund checks would be mailed to customers “without delay.”
Customers who received the email told the Defenders in recent days they have not received a reimbursement.
Elizondo, who has not been criminally charged in any case since 2017, would face felony charges this time around, if charged, since he has previously been convicted of theft two or more times.
Under Texas law, repeat offenders face state jail felony charges for any theft under $2,500.