Investigations

Unlicensed contractor destroys home and finances

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Helene Escava has had her own home for nearly a year, so why has she been living in a hotel room?

It is all because of Frank Rodriquez of Bonanza Contracting. Helene hired him to turn her newly purchased Queens property into her dream house. In November 2009, she signed a contract to have a gut renovation on all floors. The work estimated to take a year and cost $380,000.

Seven months beyond the completion date and $400,000 later, Helene stands in the middle of what she calls, hell.

"This doesn't look like part of construction, it looks like destruction," said Escava.

She says the contractor kept coming to her saying the work could not continue unless more money was given. Not knowing anything about construction, she kept signing over more and more money.

Eyewitness News finally caught up with the elusive contractor in Staten Island, but he refused to answer any questions without a lawyer present.

"I'm emotionally distraught from it. It has taken a physical toll on me. Financially, emotionally, Frank has destroyed me," Escava said.

But Frank hopes to slip away, perhaps to find another vulnerable homeowner to charm.

The Department of Consumer Affairs confirms that Bonanza Contracting has no license.

Helene Escava admits she should have checked but she made a classic mistake by trusting the builder's word, rather than checking herself.

She's now out $400,000 and waits to see if the district attorney will investigate.

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