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Unlicensed contractor pleads guilty to home repair fraud, gets no jail time

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -  You first came to know Connie Ibarra in a WHNT News 19 Taking Action story.  An unlicensed contractor tore her home apart, taking thousands of dollars for work he wasn't qualified to do.

When we spoke to her, she wasn't sure just what she could do. The City of Huntsville even told her she might not be able to live in the home.

But we got results.

After our story, contractors and Stoneridge Homes worked together to fix Connie's house.  The approximately $40,000 worth of work was done for free.

But Ibarra has been trying to get justice in her case against the unlicensed contractor for more than a year now.  On Monday, that contractor, Joshua Harris, entered a guilty plea for home repair fraud.

After the day in court, Ibarra told us, "We're one step closer. It's like chipping away at a rock."

Harris admitted that he misled Ibarra, making her think he was licensed to perform the home renovations he began almost a year and three months ago.

"You just have to be patient," Ibarra says, "And hopefully, let the system work. And hopefully, the system will work in my favor."

Harris may have admitted guilt, but the matter isn't settled. Harris had his jail time suspended, so the case comes down to restitution.

Ibarra confides, "I just don't know how the judge is going to rule on that, as far as restitution, if it's not made. Then what happens?"

The judge said in court there "is to be" restitution in this case. How much is still up for debate, though.

In a way, Ibarra is lucky. She doesn't need the money to repair her home, but still, she says, "The more I have to live it, the worse sometimes it gets. Even though the house has been fixed and everything was just so amazing there, you're carrying that cloud around. You're carrying that cloud of the right and wrong."

She emphasizes the crime Harris admitted he committed, "The whole thing is be careful, be careful, be careful. Well, I tried to be so careful, but fraud is fraud."

Now she just hopes restitution will mean restitution. There was no dollar amount attached to the plea agreement Harris took.

The City of Huntsville is prosecuting the case.  They have 14 days to submit their number for how much money Harris would need to pay Ibarra. Then Harris and his attorney will have two days to challenge that number.

After that, the case will come down to a restitution hearing.