Joliet contractor charged after allegation of unfinished home repairs

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
ROMEOVILLE, Ill. (WLS) -- The I-team is investigating an allegation of home repair fraud over a high-priced job.

Consumer investigative reporter Jason Knowles questioned the contractor and found out what you should do before hiring one.

A south suburban homeowner says he shelled out almost $30,000 for what he calls an unfinished job. The customer called the I-Team and alerted the Will County State's Attorney. Now that contractor faces a felony charge.

"It's really, really hard," said Pete Caria of Romeoville.

Caria says his home remodeling job has put him through the ringer.

"I got a lot of heartache, a lot of stress. A lot of arguing with my fiancé. I lot of hard work for myself," said Caria.

He says after paying almost $30,000 to Joseph Hernandez of J and E Design and Build in Joliet, he was left with unfinished and shoddy work .

"I discovered that nothing was done correctly. The inspection was failed. The framing was bad. The electric was bad," Caria said.

Caria also says he had to spend several thousands more to fix what he calls flaws in Hernandez's work.

"All of the framing was incorrect. Everything was a mess in here," he said, adding that he had to redo the bathroom tiles three times.

"Everything basically had to be redone, and I still have to redo this deck right now," he said.

Caria says he was forced to tear up a portion of the "new" deck himself, claiming Hernadez did a poor and incomplete job.

J and E Design and Build has an F with the Better Business Bureau for two unanswered complaints. One of those was Caria's. His complaint to the Will County State's Attorney resulted in a criminal charge.

Hernandez now faces one felony count of home repair fraud. The criminal complaint says that Hernandez knowingly entered into a contract for the addition and the deck and that the "defendant did not intend to perform."

On the phone, Hernandez told me he wanted to finish the job but that Caria kicked him off the site. Hernandez agreed to an on camera interview but then his attorney cancelled. Jason Knowles caught up with Hernandez after a recent court hearing:

When Knowles asked him to comment on the home repair fraud, Hernandez said to talk to his lawyer.

"Well, we did reach out to your lawyer. He said he'd send a statement and he never did," said Knowles.

The I-Team told Hernandez they reached out to his lawyer, who promised a statement and never sent it. The I-Team also asked Hernandez about Caria's allegations that he left him with unfinished work, and asked him about failed inspections. Hernandez did not answer any further questions.

He is expected to enter an official "not guilty plea" when he's arraigned on the indictment later this week .

"I would literally tell him straight out, be a man, do the right thing. Clear your conscience because you got to have some kind of conscience under there. Do the right thing and get us our money because you did a really crappy job and you know it," said Caria.

To avoid a home repair nightmare you should find a contractor, after getting personal references through other people who are happy customers. You should always pay with a credit card so you can dispute charges with your bank.

Experts say pay for the job in thirds-- first for the supplies, then when the work starts and finally when the job is complete.
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