Bad pool contractors steal millions
Swimming pool contractor Brian Washburn, operator of Amore’ Pools in Vero Beach, Florida, was convicted of nine felonies this June, including organizing a scheme to defraud, two counts of money laundering of more than $100,000, and six counts of fraudulent use of personal identification information.
A jury heard about nine days of testimony spanning three weeks from 34 victims of the business accusing Washburn and his wife — who was the owner of the business — of essentially stealing their money.
According to defense attorney Edward Abare, the jury met for 2 ½ hours on June 28th to render the verdict.
In court, Abare argued that the Office of Statewide Prosecution lacked evidence to show the Washburns had the intention to defraud anyone. Instead, he said they were facing the poor business arena created by the pandemic and the supply chain issues within the pool industry.
But the sheer number of former Amore’ customers may have made this argument a hard pill to swallow.
“With 34 victims testifying, that’s a tough mountain to climb,” Abare said.
In a statement, Attorney General Ashley Moody said the Amore’
Amore’ Pools in Vero Beach, Florida, was convicted of nine felonies this June. Brian Washburn and wife Crystal are not alone these days. Bad actors are all over the industry, leaving good people with nothing in their backyards except giant holes. Photo credit: Amore Pool’s customer. www.wpbf.com. scheme approached nearly $3 million, often leaving dangerous debris piles and gaping holes in the victims’ backyards.
No date has yet been set for Washburn’s sentencing. Washburn’s wife, Crystal Washburn, faces the same charges as her husband. In lieu of bail, she remains at the Indian River County Jail, with a trial date not yet set.
The Washburns are only the latest pool builders to be convicted. Tarnishing the reputation of the industry, bad-actor pool contractors are being called out all over the country.
Perhaps taking advantage or else legitimately affected by the supply chain issues impacting the pool and spa industry, pool contractors in numerous states stand accused of failing to deliver paid-for pools.
In Maryland, several homeowners are seeking the help from the state attorney general, accusing Extreme Backyards owner Patrick Michael Savage of taking thousands of dollars and delivering nothing.
The Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office has charged Savage as an unlicensed home improvement contractor, accusing him of collecting illegal deposits, failing to provide services, and refusing to refund consumers’ money.
At least one homeowner says that Savage told him that he was licensed and bonded, and because he had come recommended by another pool company, the man didn’t bother to confirm Savage’s references or do a background check.
NBC’s I-Team reports that they have discovered three recent court cases where Savage failed to show up, and that in two of those cases, a judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest.
In Denver, Colorado, a dozen homeowners have recently developed regretful relationships with one another after joining an online chat group where they shared their experiences with MountainSky Landscaping, LLC, which operates out of Boulder. The company’s owner is Peter Churchill, but customers believe it is being operated by his two sons, Shiloh and Luca Churchill.
Each of the homeowners said they paid the company thousands of dollars to install pools and backyard features, only to be left with an incomplete job. A pair of homeowners in Golden may have the most expensive backyard hole in the state after they paid MountainSky $210,000 for a pool that should have been completed by June.
But in June, the company sent a text message to several of its customers stating that they haven’t been able to complete the jobs because one of their employees embezzled half a million dollars, which froze their bank accounts and forced them to file for bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, MountainSky is involved in at least two lawsuits, including one from a disgruntled customer accusing the company of civil theft, fraud, and breach of contract. The other lawsuit was filed by SCP and Superior Pool Products, which are seeking more than $200,000 and accuse MountainSky of breach of contract, check fraud, and unjust enrichment.
In Little Rock, at least six homeowners have filed complaints against Jason Long, owner of Pool Pro of Arkansas. They said he has taken thousands of dollars from them and left them with unfinished pools or nothing at all.
Long, who is unlicensed, spoke to ABC affiliate Seven On Your Side in June, on the day before his hearing was scheduled at the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board (ACLB).
He told them that business is booming and he just hasn’t been able to keep up with demand.
He never showed up to his hearing. The ACLB issued a $234,800 fine along with a cease-and-desist order.
In Martin County, Florida, the similarly named company, Pro Pool Builders, and its owner, George Galiszewski, stand accused by nearly 30 potential pool owners of misappropriation of funds and fraud. Customers in Martin and St. Lucie counties say that they signed contracts with Pro Pool Builders to construct backyard pools, and although the company started work, it did not return, leaving them out thousands of dollars and nothing but a hole in the ground.
On May 27, for the first time, the company addressed their customers with unfinished pool projects through their lawyer, West Palm Beach attorney Ted Miloch.
According to Miloch, the trouble started in November when Pro Pool entered into a $569,000 partnership with a subcontractor to get gunite for its pools.
But in January, the subcontractor breached the deal and has not refunded the money, according to a complaint filed by Pro Pool Builders.
“Pro Pool is very upset at what happened to their customers and what happened to their business,” Miloch said. “This is a very bad situation.”
The complaint named Gunite Guys and Beyond of Vero Beach, owned by Michael and Barbara Hooker, as defendants. According to Miloch, Pro Pool Builders is suing to get the money back and to refund customers whose pools are not complete.
“Not every business is built like a Fortune 500 company,” Miloch said. “Not many businesses can take a halfmillion- dollar hit.” In May, the Martin County Construction Industry Licensing Board voted to revoke Pro Pools permitting privileges indefinitely.
Some of Pro Pool Builders customers were also victims of Amore’ Pools, whose owners were convicted this June.
These people are now worried about hiring a third company to finish their pools, or else they may give up on the dream entirely.