By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (January 26, 2017) – Argel Cital is not headed to prison. An Erath County jury sentenced him to five years in prison, but probated the sentence for 10 years, with the stipulation he payback his victim $10,000 and a $5,000 fine.
The case against the 30-year-old man convicted of theft on Wednesday came to a close in the 266th Judicial District Court on Thursday.
The punishment phase of the trial was short, with the sole witness being called by the defense.
Attorney Rosalind Kelly called Eugenia Cisneros, the mother of the defendant, as the sole character witness. Cisneros said he son was a good son, has a calm demeanor and had been working to help support his family for about half of this life.
After a day-and-a-half of testimony and a little more than three hours of deliberation, the jury of nine women and three men found Cital guilty of stealing $10,000 from Enith Murray, 71.
The third-degree felony offense carried a potential punishment of two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Jett Smith implored the jury to send Cital to prison.
“You’ve heard all the evidence you need to know, and we are asking you to place him in prison,” Smith said, citing the convicted offense against Murray, as well as the testimony of two men who said they also fell victim to the roofing scheme.
“This is not a mere theft, this a pattern of deception,” Smith adding, saying the aggravated nature of the complaints echo across Erath County.
Jett reminded the jury about Cital’s testimony on Wednesday, when the defendant couldn’t account for the thousands of dollars taken from the local area.
Cital said he started out his business in 2012 while living in a 600-square-foot apartment and driving a Prius, but was able to build a nest egg of $180,000 cash by early 2015.
The theft from Murray occurred in June 2015 when she signed a contract for repairs to her residence, which had been damaged by a spring hail storm. Smith said months before taking money from Dublin homeowners and failing to complete repairs to their homes or issue refunds, Cital had more than enough money to repay the bad debt.
“Ladies and gentlemen if you want to see a con-artist, there he sits,” Smith said, pointing to Cital. “He descended on Dublin to defraud members of our community.”
Meanwhile, Kelly asked the jury to forgo prison and place Cital on probation for the minimum two years. She said the terms of a probationary agreement would require him to report to a probation officer monthly, complete community service and could ensure restitution for Murray.
The jury learned during the trial that the victim had not been refunded the $10,000 and the only repairs made to her damaged home were completed by member of a church who replaced the roof. While they considered punishment, the jury asked the Judge if restitution could be made a requirement, to which Judge Donald Jones said yes.
Kelly said her client had not been in trouble previously and deserved the opportunity to continue to work and be a productive member of society.
During sentencing recommendations, the jury sent a question to the judge, asking if restitution could be made a requirement of a probationary sentence.
“You put Argel Cital on probation and there is nothing in this world stopping him from starting another business,” Smith argued, reminding the jury that the defendant had started a new business, called Storm Savers, even while under investigation for theft and forgery in Dublin.
“You let him out on probation, there is nothing stopping him from being a predator in another community,” Smith added, saying juror might recall public service announcements following wild weather that advised homeowner to be careful about who they trust when seeking repairs.
“This is the person you are told to look out for,” Smith said. “This is the type of person who perpetrates that type of scam. Place him in prison.”
Despite the award of probation in the current case, the nine men and three women who gave Cital another shot might not have the final say. He still has three indictments – one for theft and two for forgery – pending in the 266the Judicial District Court.
In the first day of the trial an investigator with Dublin Police Department said Murray was one of about seven homeowners who spoke to police about being swindled by Cital, who owned and operated Aztec Construction Group, also known as Aztec Environmental Restoration and Aztec Restoration.
Two of the Dublin residents testified that Cital also took their money and ran. The complaints against Cital also include allegations of forgery of insurance checks and a checking cashing service that lost about $20,000 after forwarding an advance on one of the fraudulently signed documents.