TOMS RIVER — A cheating contractor who scammed Jersey Shore homeowners out of nearly $2 million was sentenced to prison Friday but could spend less time behind bars than it has taken his victims to rebuild the homes he left in ruins.

Jamie Lawson was sentenced as a part of a plea deal to 10 years in prison. But taking into account time served and the fact that he would be eligible for parole in less than four years, he could be free in just 2 1/2 years.

He also must pay $1,860,981 in restitution but some of his victims doubt they will ever see a dime.

Lawson's sentencing had been postponed several times since pleading guilty in October to money laundering and theft. In June he was to face 10 to 20 years as a part of plea deal but reneged at the last minute after the judge grumbled at the amount that Lawson had put forward so far toward restitution.

Lawson then changed his mind again.

Prosecutors say he defrauded nearly 30 homeowners, taking their money and then performing little or no work.

Jim and Carol Ferraioli paid Lawson $64,000 to elevate their Port Monmouth home. Instead, the home was left in danger of collapsing, they said.

"The house has been a sentimental thing. It was a home to a lot of people within the family," Carol Ferraioli said in an interview with New Jersey 101.5 last month. "It's not just that he ran out with our money. He also destroyed our house. We're not only financial victims. Our house is destroyed."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.