Lake County contractor accused of owing thousands, leaving work unfinished

LAKE COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) -- Two consumers and a subcontractor told the I-Team they are owed a combined total of almost $50,000 and there is also a record of judgments against the contractor in question.

Lisa Debenedetto is still choked up.

"I lost an entire summer on my house, torn up and trashed and not being able to have family and friends for six months," she said.

Debenedetto has pictures and video of what she said was an unfinished project in Antioch. She hired John Porter of JJ Porter construction, paying him $4,200.

"It was like pulling teeth to get him to do any work whatsoever," she said.

Porter is now on another home developer's website, listed as a project superintendent.

"There was no toilet installed, the plumbing was backwards, there was no electrical, it wasn't taped or mud, the closet doors weren't hung. I mean, it was just a mess," said Debenedetto.

She said she eventually took Porter to small claims court.

"I did take him to court and I won my judgement against him for $4,244," she said.

But when the I-Team asked if she got any money from him, she said, "I did get $600."

Porter said he lost the judgement because he didn't have the resources to defend himself and he was not given a chance to repair problems. He claimed the suit would give her, "a near-completed project for free."

In South Barrington, Bob Rosenbloom filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office. He asid he ended up with an incomplete deck and a yard full of wood.

"It makes me feel angry," Rosenbloom said.

Rosenbloom said he fired Porter after a month because he was seeing little progress. Rosenbloom also claims the work was "shoddy." He also discovered a $23,000 lien had been placed on his home by the lumber supplier. Rosenbloom said that's because Porter never paid for the lumber.

"The amount of tension created by him, both on a legal basis, a financial basis and an emotional basis, have been huge," he said.

Rosenbloom said he had to settle the lien for a lesser amount and then sink thousands of dollars more into finishing the deck.

"It makes me feel that people like Mr. Porter should not have the opportunity to take people's money, their livelihood, and put them through the emotional stress that he put my family through to finish off the deck," he said.

Porter said delays were due to bad weather, "multiple changes" requested by Rosenbloom, and what he called "poor work" performed by a subcontractor. But Rosenbloom disputes that, saying he ended up hiring the subcontractor, Nick Fortner, to finish the job.

Fortner claims Porter still owes him $15,000 in a notary sealed Notice to Collect Debt.

"I was diagnosed with cancer and he told me he was going to give me money. He promised me the money, promised me the money and I was out of work for 90 days. It really hurt me personally," he said.

Fortner is now cancer free, but said he hasn't seen that money. However, Shana Fried did collect almost $13,000 from Porter after garnishing his wages.

"He gave us a proposal, we gave him a down payment of $13,000 which was one third of the overall cost of the project. We quickly realized we made a mistake. All of the negative reviews of him online and we realized, then contacted him immediately within 48 hours and asked him to return to money," Fried said.

She said when he wouldn't return the money she took him to court and won.

The I-Team also found a separate $20,000 judgement against Porter from 2015. On that judgement, Porter said, "I performed a great deal of work on this project," and claims that "permit delays" and other issues not related to his work were why the client terminated the contract.

When Porter did not respond to the I-Team's request for an interview, consumer reporter Jason Knowles found him at his home. He drove off. But the I-Team found him again walking out of a neighbor's garage.

Knowles tried to ask him about the consumers who said he left them with unfinished work, but he wouldn't not respond.

This week, Porter sent the I-Team a written statement blaming the "building market crash" and saying, "Some of the claims have been paid and some are false or exaggerated." He also added that he is "trying to do the right thing. I have paid back a large amount and I will continue to make payments until everyone is satisfied."

"He just doesn't want to pay. He doesn't think he has to pay," Debenedetto said.

Consumer experts say you should get at least two referrals from other consumers before hiring someone for any remodeling job, pay in thirds, and try to use a credit card to pay so you can dispute what you may consider to be fraudulent charges. You can also check a contractor's record with the Better Business Bureau and other online reviews. null
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