Katie Motz remembers walking through a Plain Township home she was buying and envisioning the needed renovations.

Joined by her husband, the 36-year-old toured the home with Choice One Contractors, explaining the extensive improvement plan and asking the Canton area businessmen whether they could handle the work.

Shannon M. Dishong, 43, of Canton, and Daniel M. Neil, 42, of Canton, assured the couple they were up to the task. And the company had already successfully completed minor work on a Massillon home Motz and her husband had sold.

But Motz’s initial enthusiasm turned into a nightmarish ordeal.

She was among the victims who appeared in Stark County Common Pleas Court this week to watch Dishong get sentenced to five years in prison.

Neil was sentenced earlier this year to four years in prison. Both men pleaded guilty to four counts of grand theft and two theft counts. The charges are fourth- and fifth-degree felonies.

Their victims were from Louisville, Perry Township, Lawrence Township and Canton, Stark County Assistant Prosecutor Kristen Mlinar said.

Restitution of roughly $63,000 has been ordered jointly for the co-defendants. Amounts paid by the victims to Choice One ranged from $2,300 to roughly $18,000.

Mlinar said Dishong and Neil collectively ripped off the homeowners.

Full payments, partial payments and deposits were made but work wasn’t even started in all but one of the cases. And when carpentry work was performed on the Motzes’ home, it was horribly botched and caused more problems than if it hadn’t been done at all, the assistant prosecutor said.

“People think because it involves money it’s civil,” Mlinar said. “It’s not a civil matter when somebody takes your money by lying and misrepresenting to you. It’s a crime, it’s theft.”

“I think everyone knows that this can happen but research, research, research who you have in your house and who you pay your money to,” she said. “You need to research as much as you can.”

The assistant prosecutor suggested asking a contractor for references.

Motz recommends doing a background check.

“Do your research,” she said. “I wish I would have done that. I wish I would have Googled their names. I wish I would have put them through the [Stark County Criminal Justice Information System].”

Seeking out customer reviews online is another option, Motz said, even if many don’t exist. “Sometimes the absence of information can be just as alarming,” she added.

Mlinar said Choice One’s office “wasn’t real,” noting rent hadn’t been paid. An eviction notice was posted at the office site, she said.

“The whole thing was like a scam,” Mlinar said. Making the business appear to be credible were a billboard and a woman who answered phone calls on behalf of Choice One, the assistant prosecutor said.

Motz said she became concerned by the poor quality of work at her Plain Township home. Nails were strewn on the floor and others were sticking from floorboards, she said. Trash was left behind and the project was never completed.

A red flag came when the business stopped communicating with Motz. They also gave excuses for numerous delays, she said, adding that Dishong and Neil refused to give a partial refund.