Michele and Eric Penkauskas hired Michael Benjamin, a Bridgeport based contractor, to rebuild their family home in Brooklyn after it burned down on Thanksgiving of 2014.
“He seemed like such a nice gentleman,” said consumer Michele Penkauskas.
Michele said finding a local contractor was difficult and her public adjuster recommended Benjamin after the fire burned their home down.
“He gave us his license, his insurance,” said Michele.
Michele said they gave Benjamin $68,000 from the insurance payment, and said he used $30,000 for demolition.
Soon after, she said she learned that his license expired back in 2010. The Department of Consumer Protection confirms that to NBC Connecticut, adding the work would not have been legal.
“We almost texted every single day, text or talk every single day and he gave us every bit of hope that the $38,000 would be returned,” said Michele.
They've spent 17 months in a 700 square foot trailer. Their insurance company has covered that cost, but it expires in November.
I called Benjamin several times and went to his home with no luck.
After digging through his record, we learned Benjamin has three misdemeanor convictions over the past 20 years for failure to pay wages, bad checks and violating a contract related to home improvement.
He was also arrested in February for suspicion of issuing a bad check. According to an affidavit we obtained, he wrote a $5,000 to a subcontractor that bounced. Benjamin’s public defender for this case says he has already paid back $4,600.
The Penkauskas family says after NBC Connecticut Responds got involved, they heard from Benjamin’s attorney and they are working out an agreement for him to pay them back.
The attorney declined to comment to NBC Connecticut. In the meantime, the Department of Consumer Protection continues to investigate the Brooklyn family's complaint.