CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For months, we've reported about 361 Grants and Daniel Esparza, also known as Daniel Saenz.
361 grants is a business that was charging people $150 to file for a $10,000 or $30,000 home renovation grant.
Some applicants became suspicious of the operation and requested refunds. While Esparza promised a refund to anyone who wants one, people still are waiting for their money.
Diving deeper into Esparza's background, he also faces a civil lawsuit for allegedly scamming an elderly woman.
“He’s just a scammer,” said Dr. Annette Martin.
Esparza is being sued by 98-year-old Martin after she claims he stole more than $41,000 from her.
“I would definitely say that I figured he scammed me and anyone else that runs into him should be very careful,” she said.
In 2019, Esparza asked to rent a space at the Ayers Center strip mall.
Martin owns and operates the building while living in Lubbock. He told Martin he was with Helping Hands Corpus Christi, a non-profit to help feed children and the elderly.
Esparza asked her to fix up the place and pay for the remodel up front.
“He offered to supervise everything and the changes that he wanted,” said Martin.
According to Martin, Esparza would call every night to detail what work was done. She also was told that Esparza was getting on the other tenants good side by doing chores around the strip mall.
According to the lawsuit, Esparza sent phony invoices and that's when Martin sent him money.
When martin was able to make the trip to Corpus Christi she said she found Esparza had done almost no work to the rental space.
"All he really did was tear down a small mezzanine in the back of the store," Martin said.
Esparza took her to a meeting with several people she assumed were a part of the non-profit. Martin said he rented some other space and had three long tables filled with people.
“I did not suspect a spam at all because he had all these people lined up and listening to him,” she said.
One of those people was community activist Susie Luna Saldana.
“Honest to God, I believed him,” Saldana said
Saldana met Esparza at a school board meeting. She initially thought he was going to help people, but she never saw that happen. Saldana ended up in the civil lawsuit Martin filed.
“Three months later is when I got the lawsuit, but I talked to them. I told them what had happened and they removed my name from the lawsuit,” she said.
Saldana was not a part of any alleged scam that Esparza committed. She's had no contact with him since realizing what he had done.
"So, they were there, but I think they were innocent in what he was doing," Martin said.
A few days after the meeting, Martin received a call from a neighboring tenant. It's how she said she found out what he was up to and connected the dots.
“He was a spam, that his picture was on TV with Judge Judy, saying that he was exploiting and scamming people,” she said.
Martin said Esparza never used the space and she hasn’t heard from him since.
The lawsuit seems to have stalled. According to the court docket, there's been no movement since 2019. No trial has been set either.
The lawsuit also lists Edward Turbul, also known as Edward Turnbull, as a defendant. Esparza previously said that was his son. Although, Saldana and Martin never met Turnbul. Martin added that Esparza wanted his lease account under Turnbul's name. Esparza has also said the building 361 Grants was operating out of was under Turnbul's name.
Martin said she can’t travel back to Corpus Christi due to her health. Frustrated she can't do anything, she is chalking this up as a loss. She said police also told her they can't do anything for her.
I spoke to Esparza in a Jan. 26 phone interview. I’ve reached out to Esparza several times since our last conversation and never heard back.
Also in that conversation, Esparza provided his phone number and email for people who want a refund for 361 Grants. I've followed up with a few people I spoke to who applied for 361 Grants. They all said after making initial contact within a few days of that story airing, Esparza has dodged phone calls and emails. They have not gotten their refunds.
Our reports on Esparza go back further to alleged fraud in 2018.
Esparza is also being investigated for threats he made to a KRIS 6 News anchor.
For the latest local news updatesclick here, or download the KRIS 6 News App.