Jorge Barahona looks longingly at a grassy lot in Atlantic City that once held a home he bought with his brother and father.
The young man hoped a new house would by now be on a parcel Superstorm Sandy ruined five years ago.
But his family finances were hit with another wave of destruction in the last 18 months, he says, allegedly at the hands of a contractor who took their money to rebuild the house.
"This is it, dirt again," he told NBC10 as he looked over the property. "We've been going through hell."
The Barahonas are not alone when it comes to allegedly getting ripped off at the hands of unscrupulous contractors in the aftermath of the storm that ripped apart communities up and down the Jersey Shore in October 2012.
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The ongoing struggle to be made whole serves as a warning for the massive recovery efforts now underway in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Yearslong problems between stakeholders like homeowners and contractors, homeowners and insurance companies, state agencies and local government, continue to haunt New Jersey.
One of those alleged contractors to literally take homeowners' money and run is Tre McAllister. The registered contractor in New Jersey allegedly took numerous homeowners' payments to rebuild their damaged or destroyed houses, but never finished the work.
Now, Atlantic City police are investigating, and a department spokesman said a criminal complaint has been filed against McAllister. But one problem is McAllister can't be found. Whether it's at his former Somers Point office or his old Ocean City home, those who hired him to do construction work can't get a hold of him.
The contractor did call NBC10, but he declined to discuss specifics.
For homeowners like Barahona, they want some sort of closure. It has been five years, after all, since the storm.
"We're just hoping to get our house back," Barahona said.