Retired firefighter battles to recover $14k in damages from local contractor

Attorney Myles Lenz & retired Beaumont firefighter Charles Ray Paul Sr.

A retired Beaumont firefighter who paid a local contractor to remodel a rental home more than three years ago is still fighting to recover more than $14,000 of that money for work he says went undone.

Charles Ray Paul Sr. retired from the Beaumont fire department in 2014 after more than 20 years of service to the city and citizenry. To supplement his retirement, Paul rents out houses. When he decided he wanted to remodel a rental home at 1790 Hebert St. in Beaumont, he called Ruben Dorantes of G&D Construction and Builders LLC in Orange, a man who had worked on houses for him in the past.

“He did some roof repair for me and built an add-on for me at another house, and he said he could do some remodeling, so I signed a contract with him,” recalled Paul.

The contract stipulated the total cost of the build would be $65,000 and that Paul would pay an additional $2,000 for the installation of a concrete driveway. After paying the entire $67,000, Paul said, work suddenly ceased and, even worse, subcontractors started calling to demand payments Dorantes was supposed to have made per the contract.

“One of the subcontractors filed a lien on the property, and I had to take care of that, too,” he said.

Ultimately, Paul says, he paid out $14,445 for outstanding debts to subcontractors and to complete construction on the property, which ran four months longer than Dorantes had promised, cutting into the potential profit Paul would make from renting the house.

Paul said he contacted Dorantes multiple times — when he was still able to reach the now elusive contractor — requesting repayment for the additional money he had expended. Dorantes refused to pay, said Paul.

Paul filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), whose staff was eventually able to contact Dorantes and schedule an arbitration hearing Feb. 9, and both Paul and Dorantes attended.

Documentation from the BBB indicates that during the hearing, Dorantes/G&D offered to pay Paul $7,000, less than half the additional funds he had paid. Paul rejected the offer and, in the end, the arbitrator ruled in his favor.

In his decision, the arbitrator, Beaumont attorney Charlie Goehringer, noted that G&D had “breached the contract when it abandoned the project at approximately 75 percent complete in order to work on another project. … An award of $14,445,60 to the consumer is fair because if a contractor breaches a building contract, the owner’s lost value is measured by the reasonable and necessary costs of completing the job or of remedying the defects.”

According to the BBB, “Unfortunately, the business failed to honor the arbitrator’s decision.”

The accreditation of G&D Construction and Builders LLC with the BBB was subsequently revoked following Dorantes’ failure to comply with the ruling, and the company’s rating with the BBB went from A to F. In addition, the BBB website has complaints from two other parties, besides Paul, who stated G&D did not complete construction on their building projects, either.

The BBB also notes government action against Dorantes for issuing bad checks, which he later paid back.

According to the BBB website, “July 24, 2014, the Criminal District Court of Jefferson County issued three indictments against Ruben Dorantes of Orange, Texas for the offense of theft by check. The indictments allege that Ruben Dorantes issued or passed checks when he did not have sufficient funds in or on deposit with the bank for payment. December 17, 2014, indictments 14-19921, 14-19922 and 14-19924 were dismissed when Ruben Dorantes paid restitution.”

The BBB arbitration decision in Paul’s favor came nearly a year ago, and Paul still hasn’t seen a dime. So, he sought help. Paul contacted the Bernsen Law Firm in Beaumont and is now represented by attorney Myles Lenz.

Lenz said he is pursuing Paul’s claim in Jefferson County courts, but Dorantes has proven all but impossible to serve. But that’s not going to stop Lenz from moving forward.

“I filed a petition to enforce the arbitration judgment, and Mr. Dorantes was very difficult to serve with the lawsuit papers,” Lenz related. “Ultimately, we substituted service and affixed the papers to the building where the business is registered. He was supposed to answer by Nov. 6, 2016.

“We’ve given him plenty of time to pay Mr. Paul what he is owed.”

Since then, after Dorantes failed to respond, Lenz filed for a default judgment from the courts that would allow him to initiate enforcement procedures, possibly filing of a lien against Dorantes and company or even garnishing his wages, which Lenz said has been awarded to parties involved in similar proceedings. Jan. 5, Judge Baylor Wortham of the 136th District Court in Jefferson County signed the default judgment awarding Paul $14,445.60 plus attorney’s fees, court costs and interest.

Paul is not certain whether or not he will ever get the money he is owed, but he wants to warn others to watch out for Dorantes, who he said is still doing business in the area.

“I saw him working at Carl’s Jr. a while back and other places since then,” said Paul. “He is still doing construction. I think he was working in Louisiana for a while, but I’m pretty sure he’s back now.”

The G&D company phone number is disconnected, and Dorantes could not be reached for comment at any of the several phone numbers The Examiner found for him.

“I just want him to pay what he owes me,” Paul said. “I trusted him.”