HELOTES, Texas – A Helotes woman has filed a police report accusing a San Antonio-area contractor of theft nearly a year after he accepted full payment for work without replacing pipes underneath her home.
Angela Morales paid Michael Smith $26,000 to level and support her home’s foundation and to replace cast iron pipes with PVC pipes, according to records viewed by the KSAT 12 Defenders.
But weeks after Smith told Morales the work had been completed, a plumber called to her home this winter for an unrelated clog informed her the pipes were still cast iron.
Pictures obtained by the Defenders show as of Feb. 22, the pipes were still iron. The Defenders also used a GoPro camera to record footage of the cast iron pipes last month.
“I feel silly. I feel embarrassed. I feel taken advantage of. I feel angry. I am flustered with trying to come up with this money to pay for this job again,” Morales told the Defenders.
Morales had searched for a contractor last year after noticing issues with her foundation that caused problems inside her home, including cracked tiles and sheet rock.
A static sewer test later revealed the cast iron pipes beneath her home were leaking and needed to be replaced as well, according to Morales.
After Morales contacted Smith, who claimed to be the owner and operator of Pier Pro Foundation, he told her his company would install dozens of exterior and interior piers and replace both the kitchen and bathroom plumbing with PVC pipe.
Morales paid Smith $13,000 up front in late October 2020, followed by payments of $5,000 and then $8,000 in late December, according to financial records obtained by the Defenders.
Smith then informed her in early January that all of the work described in the signed contract had been completed and workers back-filled the tunnels with dirt, according to Morales.
Red flags appear
Weeks after believing the work had been completed, Morales said red flags regarding Smith and the foundation company began to pop up.
In February, Morales was forced to call a plumber to her home for a clogged pipe.
Using a small camera, the plumber took pictures inside the pipes of Morales’ home, which revealed they were still cast iron.
After Morales called Smith, he denied that the work had not been completed.
“Of course I was there when they were switching out the cast iron to PVC. I think you might have cast iron coming out of your septic tank going underneath the house right there. But that’s PVC underneath your kitchen, going to the bathroom and everything else,” Smith said in a voicemail left for Morales in February.
Smith, however, conceded in an email sent to the Defenders late last month that the plumbing work had not been completed.
“Without any sort of foundation expertise myself, I did trust him. He said he had been in business for 30-something years. I had no reason not to trust him,” said Morales.
Morales said, in hindsight, Smith’s repeated insistence that she hire him to begin work immediately should have signaled to her that something was amiss.
“Absolutely scared me into hiring him and needing to move quickly on these repairs,” said Morales, who acknowledged that she never saw any PVC pipe among the materials brought to her home for the project.
Morales said a review of her bank statements revealed that all three checks she wrote to Pier Pro Foundation were cashed at ACE Cash Express, a payday lender that has been frequently sued for its business practices. A class action lawsuit filed and settled in Texas against the financial services provider accused it of being an illegal loan-sharking operation, federal court records reveal.
Niether Pier Pro Foundation or Smith have been implicated in any wrongdoing associated with ACE Cash Express.
Multiple people who hired Smith said he presented a document from the San Antonio Development Services Department indicating that he is a licensed contractor.
The document, however, does not include Smith’s name on it. A spokeswoman for DSD told the Defenders Smith is not listed as Pier Pro Foundation’s owner or as a delegate for the company, meaning he cannot pull city permits on its behalf.
The spokeswoman added that there are no city documents actually linking Smith to the company, and that officials have been unsuccessful in reaching its registered owner.
The woman listed in records as the owner of Pier Pro Foundation lives in central Texas, according to public records. She did not respond to calls for comment made by the Defenders to several phone numbers associated with her.
Morales hired an attorney to assist with any possible claims against Smith but said she cannot move forward with filing a lawsuit. She told the Defenders she used up her retainer unsuccessfully trying to serve Smith with a certified letter requesting that he return and complete the work.
A foundation endorsement included in Morales’ homeowner’s insurance policy covered a portion of the repairs, but she said those funds have been exhausted and any future repairs are completely on her to cover.
After the Defenders reached out to Smith to request an interview late last month, he responded via email that he was out of town but had sent workers to resume the work at Morales’ home.
Morales said workers showed up at her home and dug out tunnels, for a third time, but have yet to complete any additional plumbing work beneath the home.
The Defenders visited Pier Pro Foundation’s listed business addresses in San Antonio and New Braunfels, but both locations are now occupied by unrelated companies.
A Helotes city official confirms the permit issued for the foundation repair remains open.
A theft report filed with Helotes police by Morales on Oct. 19 accuses Smith of accepting full payment for work he did not perform.
A Helotes police detective assigned to its criminal investigations division confirmed the investigation is still ongoing.