VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- A North Carolina man has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to construction fraud against a 92-year-old World War II veteran.

The Commonwealth's Attorney says 61-year-old Francisco Gomez of Moyock signed a contract with the victim last year, agreeing to remove and replace the veteran's roof for $11,000. The victim paid $7,000 up front, and agreed to pay the remaining $4,000 when the job was to be completed.

Gomez reportedly cashed the check that same day, but never began work on the roof. Weeks went by, during which time the victim contacted Gomez several times asking about the roof. Gomez reportedly gave an excuse each time, but work was never started. After three months went by, the victim contacted Virginia Beach Police.

Police advised the victim to send a letter by certified mail return receipt requested to the defendant's last known address, requesting the $7,000 be returned. The victim did so, but Gomez never made any attempt to return the money, nor did he ever do any work on the roof.

He was arrested, and pleaded guilty in May for failure to felony construction fraud. On Wednesday, a circuit court judge sentenced Gomez to five years in prison, which is above the state's recommended guidelines of three years.

Gomez has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1995, and has a history of committing these types of offenses against the elderly.

The Commonwealth's Attorney's Office offers the following advice to help avoid becoming a victim of construction fraud:

  • Never pay the full price of a job before it's done; pay in increments as work is completed.
  • If you pay in advance for the contractor to purchase materials, make sure they arrive at your home along with invoices indicating what was bought and paid.
  • Pay with a personal check or credit card, which can be tracked more easily than cash.
  • Don't do business with contractors who knock on your door; find listed, licensed, and insured local construction companies.
  • Get at least three written estimates.