PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. --When Gabriele Rott hiredDi Spirito Masonry and Tile to build a barbecue pit in her backyard, she expected a better outcome.

"I'm out of $800. I am lucky," she said, "My neighbor Stacy is out $1200."

Rott saidshe paid John Di Spirito upfront.He delivered some materials and she said thatwas the last time she saw him.

"I think I'm a real dummy," said Rott, "I believed him because I met his wife."

Then she discovered Di Spirito left her neighbor in a similar situation.

"I trusted him and now I feel you can't trust workers anymore," she said.

Rott feels she and her neighbor were targeted because of their address.

"They're looking at your house and think you have tons of money," she said, "That's not the truth. We built this house 27 years ago."

Was it the contractor'sintent to take the money and not finish the job? Rott and her neighbors are asking questions, but they're not getting answers.

Di Spirito has yet toreturn calls and a visit to his business,a house in Orange Park, was fruitless.

Di Spirito Masonry and Tile is not a member of the Better Business Bureau, but the BBB rated the company and gives it a D+.

Rott has decided topay another company to complete the job. Shewants her experience to be a warning to others.

"Don't pay up front. Don't be so trustful. There are too many people who will take the money from you," she said.

To protect your hard earned money:

-Check at least five references. You want to know if the company started promptly and finished in a timely manner.

-Check to see if the job requires a professional state licensewith the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

-Verify insurance, in the event of an injury.

-Never pay cash upfront. If the job requires payment, pay in thirds.

-Get it all in writing, include a commencement date and a completion date.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, we heard from Di Spirito. Several Ponte Vedra residents accused of him of starting a job, getting paid, but never finishing the work.

Di Spirito told us said this was never his intent. Di Spirito said he had vehicle problems that caused him miss those jobs and to lose a lot of money. He said he deeply apologizes and will make reimbursements.