Family says they were robbed of life savings by contractor they found online

A family from Revere, Massachusetts, says they were stripped of their life savings by a contractor who they thought was legitimate -- and they aren't the only ones.

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It was a two-year ordeal for Sandra Burke and her family when they decided to hire a contractor to remodel their home.

Through online searches, they found Richard Rolon and his company, The Design Consultants, and he seemed like the perfect person for the job.

"We looked at his reviews. They looked pretty good. We checked references, and we spoke to former clients, and we didn't see any red flags," Sandra Burke said.

Burke said she was thorough with her research. She said she paid Rolon and his company a roughly $4,400 retainer. At first, there were weekly visits to plan and purchase materials, and all the while, Burke said the money kept going out.

"You pay for everything up front so that you receive materials at his cost. And you also pre-pay for the labor, which would secure the contract and also secure the price," Burke said.

Rolon claimed the money would be safe in an escrow account until the work that began in the fall of 2015 lasted a lot longer than the four to six months the family anticipated.

"We were out of our house for almost two years," Burke said.

Their home was left unlivable, stripped to the studs, and their money, more than $178,000, was gone.

"We were homeless, and we were penniless. He took our life savings," Burke said.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said several homeowners turned to her office with similar complaints about Rolon, which prompted them to start investigating.

"These were devastating consequences for homeowners," Attorney General Healey said. "People were out tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars in some instances."

This week, the office filed a suit against Rolon on behalf of several families for allegedly taking money for work he never did and never paying them back.

"We want to make sure that we shut him down," Attorney General Healey said, adding that she also wants to make the families whole again.

Officials with the Attorney General's Office say to always check your contractor's license. In this case, Richard Rolon was never licensed in the state of Massachusetts.

Boston 25 News tried tracking down Rolon by going to a home address in Everett, Massachusetts, but it appears he no longer lives there.

The address in Canton, where Rolon listed his company The Design Consultants on Bolivar Street, doesn't exist.

"What (we) would advise them before they hired someone? I would say listen to your gut," Burke said.

A gut check could spare you and your family a nightmare. It took another $200,000 for another contractor to get the Burkes back home.

AG officials also encourage people to report cases like this.

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