Unlicensed contractor takes off with woman's money

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PHOENIX -- A Valley woman wanted to add on to her home so she hired a contractor, but the contractor had another idea.

His idea was to take the money and run. When it was all said and done, the unlicensed contractor made off with thousands of dollars.

"I've lived in this home for 20 years," Marti Valdez said.

After two decades, Valdez was excited to add on to her home.

"I've always wanted that bathroom in there," Valdez said. "I've wanted my back room because I have grandkids and they wanted a pool table. I didn't know where to put it so I figured that it would be great to put in the back room."

Valdez says she hired a company called Moondo, which is reportedly owned by a guy who identified himself as Jairo Hidalgo.

Hidalgo was going to add on that extra room and bathroom for Valdez.

"Before I hired him, I said I needed a contract," Valdez said. "He told me he was licensed at the time."

At least he said he was licensed.

Hidalgo then drew up a contract saying the job would cost around $4,000.

Valdez forked out $2,200 upfront and gave it to Hidalgo to start work.

But instead of working, Hidalgo kept asking -- asking for more money.

Valdez handed over more than $3,000 and after all that money, Hidalgo did start the project. But then he took off with the money.

"He built a brick wall and that was it," Valdez said.

Hidalgo never did return to Valdez's home. She eventually had to fork out even more money to have someone else finish the job.

"At this point I'm out about $7,000," Valdez said. "It just broke me."

Valdez contacted 3 On Your Side. We went to Hidalgo's last known address but not surprisingly, he was nowhere to be found.

Valdez says this experience has been an expensive lesson she hopes others can learn from.

"Never give money upfront," she advised. "I figure if they have a company, they can afford to do the work and then pay them when the job is done."

I say it all the time. Never give money upfront!

It's also a good reminder to use a licensed contractor because if you get ripped off, you can be reimbursed by the state's contractor's board.

The guy Valdez hired is unlicensed so she really has no recourse.