Action 9 investigates how emergency contractors can hijack insurance claims

ORLANDO,Fla. — An Orlando woman claims the restoration company she hired to put her life back together after a flood wrecked her home instead, and she's been living without a kitchen for a year and a half.

A pipe burst when no one was home, flooding Marie Dolce's kitchen. Overwhelmed, she hired an emergency restoration contractor the next day to dry out and rebuild -- a decision that she said she regrets.

“I feel like they just took the money and they aren't going to do anything else,” said Dolce.

Dolce said her insurance company paid Emergency Flood Services in Deltona, $7,000 18 months ago for the total loss.

Her kitchen is still empty, Dolce said they ripped out the damage and then never came back.

“I call these people almost every day and every time they have an excuse,” said Dolce.

The address for Emergency Flood Services is a UPS Store mail box. By phone, contractor Chris Defronzo told Todd Ulrich that all the insurance money was spent and the total loss was more than $20,000. That's why the work was not completed.

Action 9 asked insurance expert Ron Livingstone, a public adjuster, to see what happened to that $7,000.

“Did they spend that money here?” asked Ulrich.

“No possibility whatsoever,” replied Livingstone.

He said emergency contractors who want you to assign them total control of the insurance claim can be so risky.

“It's absolutely crazy to sign a contract assigning benefits,” said Livingstone.

Action 9 also found Defronzo is serving probation for grand theft for his role in what deputies called a stolen car chop shop ring in 2012.

Livingstone said the insurance company has now reopened the claim so the job can be finished.

“Bottom line, I just want my kitchen,” said Dolce.

Defronzo claims his remediation and drywall cost $11,000 so he's owed money.

The insurance company and our expert disagree and warn against assigning your benefits to restoration contractors.