A Bakersfield homebuilder who allegedly engaged in various fraudulent real estate activities is being
investigated by the Kern County District Attorney’s office and the United States Attorney’s office, according
to Deputy District Attorney Don Mingleton.
All Bert Valencia has to show for his effort to have a custom home built by DMJ Customs, a home builder, is a sign with
his family name on it. It stands on his empty one-acre lot at the corner of Renfro Road and Henderson Avenue in this photo
taken in September 2007.
Ammanda Meek's home was never completed. She says the contractor took her money, leaving her with a partially constructed
home. "I hate coming here, it just kills me," she said as she walked through the partially built house in this photo taken
in September 2007.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office joined in the investigation of Donald Juhasz and his business, DMJ Customs Inc., at some
point after Juhasz filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in October, Mingleton said.
Juhasz’s contractors licenses have also been suspended for failure to comply with workers compensation and bonding
requirements, according to Rick Lopes, a spokesman with the California Contractors State License Board.
Two former customers who say Juhasz promised to build them homes, but instead stole the money meant to finance their homes’
construction, expressed frustration Thursday over the pace of the investigation. Police raided Juhasz’s property nearly
five months ago.
“All this protection for them and none for us,” said Ammanda Meek, whose half-built DMJ custom home went into
default — the precursor to foreclosure — in January. Meek’s credit has been damaged, and stiffed subcontractors
are suing her seeking payment, she said.
Juhasz did not return calls for comment Thursday. His lawyer, William Slocumb, said he advised his client not to talk to
the press as a protective measure.
His client’s current financial problems are the same as those plaguing a number of homebuilders who prospered when
the real estate market thrived, but who are now struggling in the downturn, Slocumb said.
“These are the same financial troubles going on with many,” he said, adding some making allegations work for
Asked about the allegations of theft and fraud, Slocumb said some complainants have “been very loud about their displeasure
with the (financial) developments.”
If the pace of the investigation seems slow, it’s because the Juhasz case is a complicated one, involving possible
business and real estate fraud, Mingleton said. The investigation requires expert witnesses and the review of “quite
a bit” of evidence, he said.
“We want to make sure it’s fully investigated before we file charges,” Mingleton said.
The U.S. Attorney’s office would not confirm its involvement, and generally does not comment on cases under investigation,
spokeswoman Lauren Horwood said.
But court filings from a Sept. 25 search of Juhasz’s home by the Bakersfield Police Department detail some of the
fraud allegations former customers and associates have levied against Juhasz and DMJ Customs.
Last fall, police seized contracts, checks, bank statements, evidence of money wires and similar documents from 11228 Brightwater
Way, the home of Juhasz and his wife, Denise Juhasz, and the office of DMJ Customs, according to the search warrant return
filed in Kern County Superior Court.
Police were seeking the evidence to prove Juhasz and DMJ Customs’ relationship with parties reporting grand theft,
according to the probable cause statement, prepared by police Detective F.H. Wooldridge, and filed with the warrant return.
Seven families reported various losses from their dealings with the builder, such as writing checks to Juhasz meant to
serve as construction down payments on homes that never got built, Wooldridge wrote.
The Meek family and others reported Juhasz made draws on their construction loans, but failed to pay subcontractors working
on the home. Failed business investments and allegations Juhasz asked a friend to sign her name to a property’s title
were also outlined.
The broker for Bakersfield’s Creative Realty Marketing & Mortgage, Ken Beavers, reported Juhasz provided “fraudulent
and misleading” information in a purchase contract used to obtain a loan, according to the probable cause statement.
Juhasz and his wife owe creditors $6.4 million, and have $3.7 million in assets — most of which is real property,
according to their bankruptcy filing. The list of creditors, which includes construction companies, banks and individuals,
runs on for pages.
Meek and her husband, Thomas Meek, and another couple have filed objections to the discharge of Juhasz’s debt, court
The complaints involve charges of fraud, false financial charges and false pretenses, said Juhasz’s bankruptcy attorney,
Phillip Gillet Jr.
The fraud complaints will be considered in a hearing, he said.
Bankruptcy cases involve meetings with creditors, and the first such gathering drew 50 to 60 people eager to question Juhasz,
said Bert Valencia, who said he hired Juhasz to build him a home on his northwest lot.
Valencia paid DMJ Customs $40,000 to start building his house, of which only $8,200 was properly applied toward plans for
his home, Valencia said.
“My question to him was, ‘What did you do with my money?” Valencia said.
He got no answer, he said, and he’s not expecting to get one soon.
Complicated financial cases such as this one frustrate even the professionals working them, police Bakersfield Police Sgt.
Greg Terry said.
“We have to really work hard to get them,” Terry said. “It takes forever.”