By Jim Cory. Stepping outside of established systems and procedures can cost you money. Just ask Jim LeFaivre. The owner of J.R. LeFaivre Construction, Taneytown, Md., has subcontractors he uses regularly. So a year ago, when a roofing contractor (with licenses and insurance) walked in his office looking for work, LeFaivre was noncommittal. A short time later, LeFaivre got a call from a client he'd done five jobs for. The client had a leak. Because neither LeFaivre nor his regular roofing sub were available, he called the roofer who'd stopped in his office.

The roofer asked for a check to pay for the shingles. LeFaivre got a price from the roofing company, then handed the roofer a check for $1,971. It rained that weekend. The roof went unrepaired and the check was cashed at a local liquor store. Repeated calls brought promises but no results.

LeFaivre's regular roofing contractor did the repairs. When LeFaivre pressed charges, it turned out that the roofer had ripped off as many as 30 other area contractors. Last March LeFaivre's case and a number of others went to court and the roofer was sentenced in five cases to five, eight-year terms, to be served concurrently. LeFaivre got his money back when the man's lawyer showed up with a check, hoping for a reduced sentence.

LeFaivre says the first mistake he made was to overreact to the client's dilemma. But more than that, he trusted a subcontractor he didn't know with money.