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Newlyweds Won't Be In Home For Christmas After Contractor Takes $9,000 And Leaves Work Undone

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A supposed home contractor with a pattern of taking customers' money and disappearing has struck again, a newlywed couple tells CBS 2.

CBS 2's Tim McNicholas has the warning signs you need to know.

"We were excited about having Christmas dinner here," said Christine Carr.

She bought her dream home with her new husband, but there will be no ham on a festive table there for the newlyweds.

It's all because of Justin Ephraim and his crew, who did business as Riverside Roofing and Masonry.

CBS 2 previously spoke with Tiana Hill and Jessica Najar, both out thousands of dollars for the same contractor who seems good at taking homeowners' hard earned money and running.

"It was within our price range, and they seemed eager to do it," said Carr.

She gave Riverside Roofing $9,000 in October. She estimates they did about $500 worth of work, which might be a generous guesstimate given the quality.

"They were supposed to frame around these windows, but they didn't," she said. "You can tell that this is a very poor job, already cracking. They bricked in this window. It's sloppy. Another window we asked them to frame around, but they didn't."

The team did shoddy work and then was gone.

She now has a new legitimate contractor working hard, but she had to come up with a lot more cash.

"We scrambled together some funds in order to get other contractors to come in and do the work that we paid them to do," Carr said. "It's very difficult. I just buried my brother on Monday. It's very stressful. I've been back and forth to the doctor because of the amount of stress that I've been on due to trying to get into my home."

She spoke with CBS 2 to spread the word to warn others.

"Contractors like this, we don't know what to do, so I appreciate CBS for giving us the opportunity to tell our story," she said.

"They asked for a higher down payment, and that's usually a warning sign," said Steve Bernas with the Better Business Bureau.

After CBS 2's inquriy. he Better Business Bureau changed Riverside's rating from a AAA to unrated as it investigates.

"It doesn't appear they are responding to the complaints to our office, so mostly likely they will get our lowest rating once the cases are closed out," said Bernas.

Each of the homeowners told CBS 2 of demands for more and more cash up front.

"The Better Business Bureau suggests you do a third down," Bernas said. "A third in the middle and a third at the end for payment."

Bernas also suggests checking how long a contractor has been in business. A short track record is often a sign of a scam. Also double check the physical address where the business supposedly operates with Google Earth.

CBS 2 discovered medical and legal offices at the address Riverside Roofing and Masonry used -- no contractors.

"We sent a letter to the business address that they had, and it was returned," Carr said.

Carr is trying to sue Riverside Roofing to get her money back, but because of that bogus address she is having trouble just serving him with the legal papers. Other customers took to Yelp to blast Riverside. Some even noted CBS 2's original story.

One Yelper wrote that Riverside changed its name on another app, Thumbtack, to Walsh Roofing and Masonry. Thumbtack is a site for homeowners to find contractors. The Walsh page there does not work anymore.

A Thumbtack spokesperson confirmed to CBS 2 that "the account you referenced has been permanently removed from the Thumbtack platform."

Carr's December move in date is looking more like February now, so perhaps by Valentine's Day she and her husband can enjoy dinner in their home sweet home.

What would Carr say to Ephraim?

"You all are terrible people to do this to so many families," she said. "I just think it's awful that you would take our hard-earned money and run."

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