‘It hurts our whole industry:’ Contractors step up after Racine mom loses $3K

RACINE -- Kelly Gonzalez saved money for years. Then, a contractor took it for a job that he didn't finish.

It turns out her misfortune wasn't set in concrete -- thanks to a story by FOX6's Contact 6.

Earlier this year, Gonzalez paid a contractor more than $3,000 for a new patio. Work on the project stopped midway through.

Kelly Gonzalez shows Contact 6's Jenna Sachs the unfinished patio work left behind by Benjamin Claudio.

"It took me nine years to be able to have someone come out and, you know, fix it so my daughter could play with her bikes on the driveway and so we could have something nice," Gonzalez told Contact 6 at the time.

Tom Alioto of Lake Country Concrete Specialists volunteered to complete the patio job after seeing the story on FOX6.

Tom Alioto (middle) and Nick Kerzner (right) surprise Kelly Gonzalez with the gift of a free new patio.

"We're paying for the concrete and all the labor," Alioto said.

Contact 6 arranged for Alioto and contractor Nick Kerzner, who hosts a construction radio show and connected Alioto with Contact 6, to surprise Gonzalez with a generous offer.

"I just felt compelled to get over here and get this done for you. So, I'm gonna handle the cost on it and we're gonna come in here and we`re gonna put a beautiful patio in here," Alioto told Gonzalez.

It was a gift that left Gonzalez surprised and happy. It reminded her there are good contractors available.

"I didn't think that would happen and it's very nice," Gonzalez said. "Thank you so much. Thank you so much."

The entire situation came with a lesson.

Gonzalez found contractor Benjamin Claudio on the Facebook Marketplace and didn't check his criminal record before hiring him. If she had, she would have seen his past conviction of Theft by Contractor and an active arrest warrant.

Claudio was arrested on September 11, 2018. He appeared via satellite in Ozaukee County court where his cash bail was set at $7,500. He remains in the Ozaukee County Jail. Claudio faces two misdemeanor counts for Theft by Contractor and Misleading a Buyer While Signing Documents.

Benjamin Claudio

"When you're looking at contractors call the Better Business Bureau. Call NARI. You know, do your homework," Alioto advised.

For Gonzalez, it's a bad experience being smoothed away. For Alioto and Kerzner, it's an opportunity for redemption.

"When we see stuff like this, it hurts us. It hurts our whole industry," Kerzner said.

So, maybe from now on when Gonzalez sees her kids' handprints in the concrete, she'll remember the helping hand unexpectedly offered that gave her three-year-old daughter a safe place to play.

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