An Albertahome contractor has been sent to jail for 90 days after taking money in advance for jobs he never completed.

Max Samoila of Medicine Hatpleaded guilty in provincial court Thursday under Alberta's FairTrading Actto failing to refund homeowners' money within 15 days of the cancellation date of contracts.

Announcing the conviction Monday, provincial officials said homeowners should resist booking the first person available to do the job in a buoyant economy where tradespeople are often overbooked.

"Most reputable contractors have charge accounts with their suppliers and don't require money up front,"said Eoin Kenny, spokesman for Service Alberta.

"If a contractor does ask for money up front, you should then ask to see his prepaid contractor's licence. That's a provincial licence that requires a contractor to be licensed and to have a security in place – some form of guarantee."

Kenny adds that people should check a contractor's references before signing a contract,whichshouldoutline start and completion dates.

Samoila, who is not licensed by the province or bonded as a prepaid contractor, has to pay restitution of $99,900 to the homeowners and will be on probation for 33 months after completing his 90-day sentence.

In one case, a couple contracted him to build ahome for $130,000.

Afterthey gave Samoilamore than $100,000, he told the couple he couldn't do any more work on the home. The couple paid an extra $98,000 to have someone else complete the job, plus they had to pay $10,000 to remove a lien on their home after Samoila didn't pay a supplier.

In two other cases, Samoila refused to refund deposits of about $14,000 and$2,500 to his clients.