Ottawa homeowners lose thousands to absent contractor

A number of Ottawa homeowners want swift action after they allege a man they hired to perform major heating and cooling work took their money months ago without completing or—in some cases—even starting the jobs.  

“He did half the job, left in the middle of it, installed a hot water heater that was not to code and stopped working after a couple of days,” Dan Cockerham said. 

Cockerham hired Mahmoud El Sharafah and his company Comfort Level One Heating and Cooling earlier this year. He says after months of excuses, he’s going through small claims court to try to get money back. 

This week, Cockerham met up with strangers he met online who had similar experiences at the Ottawa police station. They had filed reports but wanted to go in person to try to speed up the response.  

“It’s extremely frustrating. I’m angry, I’m pissed, I feel violated,” said Rawa Maadarani who hired El Sharafah in June for a new furnace, air conditioner, water heater and duct work.  

“I lost $9,800 to this man. He never returned, he never brought any equipment, he kept putting me off for the assessments and, basically, I lost it. He gave me a cheque finally on Monday but he said, ‘Don’t cash it because I have no funds in there.'” 

El Sharafah has not been charged. CTV News tried to get in touch with him several times—at a business address listed online and at home. He did not respond to phone calls or emails.  

Websites like Homestars and the Better Business Bureau show several complaints from former customers across the province.  

“All of his aliases came up, all of these different company names going back to Toronto in the last 10 years or so and I started getting contacted by people from the review that I posted almost every day,” Cockerham said.

Ottawa police won’t comment on this specific case, but say they investigate complaints as they come in. 

“We get between 6,000 to 7,000 files a year and we only have so many people who can investigate those files,” said Staff Sgt. Cameron Graham of the fraud unit. “It takes much longer than we would like and it takes much longer than people would like for us to get to those files but unfortunately we have to take them one at a time.” 

Some tips for consumers from the Better Business Bureau include getting multiple estimates, checking references, avoiding paying cash, and not paying more than a third of the project’s total amount for a deposit.  

Cockerham and Maadarani say they want answers and their money. 

“Usually you know I’m pretty diligent, I do my research but this time I guess I wasn’t paying attention,” Maadarani said. 

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