Despite two court judgments against fly-by-night contractor, Alberta homeowner is left “chasing a ghost”
Rosalba Politi, Morinville, AB, continues her four-year search for $20,000 in compensation from Vinizio DiVincenzo, formerly of Gibson, BC
July 19, 2018 by John Bleasby
Rosalba Politi had a straightforward home improvement project needing a contractor: a fence, a 12ft x 12ft concrete pad with a composite wood platform for a gazebo, and a walkway to her garage. Instead, she’s endured a multi-year personal and legal nightmare that includes court judgements in two provinces against her contractor.
Her simple plan went off the rails several years ago
Rosalba bought her new-build house in the Town of Morinville just north of Edmonton in 2011. In 2012, she felt that adding a fence, and a pad and platform for her gazebo would offer some private entertainment space in the rear yard. The neighbors were even willing to chip towards the cost of the fence.
Nothing was complicated, nothing required a permit; she simply needed a competent contractor to do the work. Under family pressure, she ended up hiring Vinizio DiVincenzo, or ”Vinnie” as he was called. “Vinnie was technically my step brother,” Rosalba told Canadian Contractor. “My father was married to his mother.” Rosalba and Vinnie had met only a few times. However, her father was trusting, explaining to Rosalba that DiVincenzo needed the work.
According to Rosalba, DiVincenzo had moved to Alberta from Gibson, B.C. shortly after devastating floods hit Calgary in early 2012, and worked for a time with his brother, owner of a legitimate contracting business. “I told my dad I didn’t want to hire him. But my dad said, ‘No, no. He’ll do a good job, I’m married to his mother.’” DiVincenzo’s first quote for the work was a bit high; a second quote that followed was even higher. He wanted 50 per cent up front. “He kept asking for more and more money. I said to my father, ‘Why is he doing this? Why does he need all this money?’”
More and more demands for money
Nevertheless, things went well at first and the concrete was poured satisfactorily that summer. However, the fence was another story. Instead of auguring a post hole where the fence met the side of the house, DiVincenzo simply fired some screws through the vinyl siding. “I was not happy with this —‘you’re going to have to change it,’ I told him. He said he couldn’t do it because he couldn’t get the machine in. That’s when we started to have sour relations.”
Rosalba said that DiVincenzo asked for another $800 in cash. She balked. DiVincenzo said he couldn’t continue without more money. She relented. In all, she advanced him close to $10,000. Then DiVincenzo told Rosalba that he was going to Calgary for two weeks to work for his brother but would be back to finish the work. He never returned.
Threats and intimidation
When DiVincenzo didn’t return, Rosalba sent him emails. Next, she complained to Alberta’s Consumer Services Division. That’s when DiVincenzo’s angry responses started (see photo). Vinnie’s mother (now in divorce proceedings with Rosalba’s father) even got into the act, leaving a voicemail that Rosalba recorded and transcribed.
“I have grounds to put your father in jail and ruin his reputation and I’m gonna pass that to my son. …..Always crying to daddy, hey?”
Rosalba was on a break from teaching school at the time, and was working for the local RCMP as a 911 dispatcher. Feeling threatened, she took the emails to a constable who in turn contacted DiVincenzo and told him to lay off. According to Rosalba, DiVincenzo took that warning as a cue to completely abandon the project on the basis that he wasn’t allowed on the property. The debris and rubble left behind was later cleaned up with the help of Rosalba’s co-workers at the RCMP.
A slap on the wrist, legal action, but no financial restitution paid
The Consumer Services Division in Alberta investigated and wrote to Rosalba in February 2013. “Mr. DiVincenzo is now aware of his obligations pursuant to the Fair Trading Act as well as the Prepaid Contracting Business Licensing Regulation.” That was it — a slap on the wrist. No further action would be taken, although they suggested Rosalba consider “civil remedies” if she wished to pursue the matter.
She did. In October 2013, Rosalba commissioned a professional inspection of the project abandoned by DiVincenzo. The report, reviewed by Canadian Contractor, contained 14 pages of notes and 30 photos that detailed five major areas of concern.
Armed with this report and a history of their financial transactions, Rosalba went to court. She was advised to file in both British Columbia and Alberta — DiVincenzo was a registered resident in B.C. and allegedly owned property in Gibson but the claims against him were in Alberta. Court documents received by Canadian Contractor confirm that in February and May 2014 respectively, Rosalba won judgment in B.C. and Alberta for over $20,000 including interest and costs. DiVincenzo did not appear in either court to defend himself.
That was the good news. The bad news was that his house in Gibson was in foreclosure. Subsequent background checks revealed that DiVincenzo had over $650,000 in additional judgments against him. His attempt to file bankruptcy had failed because, according to the agency Rosalba hired for $750, “Mr. DiVincenzo did not complete the required steps.”
The system has failed Rosalba
Rosalba lost contact with DiVincenzo in 2015. She has been unable to track him down, let alone determine if he has a job or any ability to pay the judgment awarded her. “I tell people about this and they shake their heads. I couldn’t make this up if I tried; I wish I was kidding. The worst part is, he was technically family.”
While Rosalba doesn’t say as much, the system has failed her. Yes, she won her battles and was thorough in her record keeping, but four years after her judgments, there’s little chance of collecting a penny and the authorities are not chasing DiVincenzo to pay. “To go any further would just be an expenditure on my part. I’m chasing a ghost.”
At the same time, by coming forward to Canadian Contractor with her story, Rosalba has chosen not to go silent either. “I want people to know. I would hate anyone to go through this.”
Maybe someone knows where to find Vinizio DiVincenzo, aka ”Vinnie”. If so, Rosalba’s lawyer would love to hear from them — Michael McVey (Weir Bowen L.P.), 780.412.2243
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