The U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI are leading a criminal investigation into a swimming pool contractor who took payments for pool builds that he never completed.
Charles Workman, owner of MN Crete Pools in Prior Lake, Minnesota, is accused of engaging “in deceptive and fraudulent practices in marketing and selling inground pool construction and equipment that he and his company have not delivered,” according to a press release from the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.
Workman’s alleged fraud and deception are currently known to have cost Minnesota homeowners tens of thousands of dollars each.
“Part of my job as Attorney General is to protect Minnesotans from fraud and scams, and this is a shameful scam that has hurt a lot of Minnesota families,” Attorney General Keith Ellison said. “I’m suing Mr. Workman and his company because they’ve taken advantage of Minnesotans who worked hard and saved up money just so they could provide a pool for their families to enjoy. But every step of the way, Mr. Workman and his company lied to people to get more money faster from the families he took advantage of, and to get out of doing the work he promised them. I’m taking him to court to stop him and get some justice for these consumers.”
An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office revealed that since Workman started MN Crete Pools in 2021, he has falsely represented his experience as a pool builder. Because most pool contractors are currently booked out months or years in advance, he and his company allegedly got business by falsely telling consumers that they had one immediate opening left for the season. Workman is also accused of using other high-pressure sales tactics, like promising discounts if consumers signed a contract right away — offering, for example, thousands of dollars off their final payment, free diving boards, free landscaping, or free chemical treatments for a year. However, these discounts never materialized because Mr. Workman and his company never finished the projects.
The contracts consumers signed with MN Crete Pools required them to make payments at certain benchmarks in the project. For example, many consumers were required to pay 25% of the total price down, 25% when the defendants ordered their pool equipment, 25% when defendants began excavation, and 25% when project was completed. To induce consumers to pay as much as possible, Mr. Workman would pressure consumers to sign contracts right away for the first payment and misrepresent that they had ordered the pool’s equipment for the second payment.
In many cases, Mr. Workman and his company just took the first two payments and disappeared.
In some cases, they showed up to consumers’ homes with an excavator for the third payment, then simply removed the excavator as soon as the consumer made the third payment. In a few cases, defendants performed limited excavation — or even poured the pool’s concrete foundation — before disappearing and never returning.
Homeowners contacted Workman about the lack of progress on their project. They say Workman offered all kinds of excuses: among them, that his employees were sick, he had filed a permit incorrectly, or his equipment had mechanical issues. Workman even acknowledged to a few consumers that he had not lived up to his end of the contract and promised to refund the money but never did.
In the end, Workman is accused of scamming tens of thousands of dollars out of many Minnesota families. The lawsuit alleges that Workman and his company violated numerous Minnesota consumer protection laws. Attorney General Ellison is seeking restitution for consumers, an injunction prohibiting Workman from engaging further in this fraudulent scheme, civil penalties, and recovery of the state’s costs and fees for a total of $2.26 million.
Workman has not responded to any of the charges, which were filed in August. In January, 2023, the AG’s office filed a motion for default judgment, to award a judgment without Workman showing up.
Workman has a previous criminal conviction of theft by deception in his home state of Kentucky.
In June, Workman sent a statement to WCCO, a local ABC affiliate.
Here is Workman’s full statement: “There are a lot of great families that I have worked with. One or two pulled projects led to weeks of work getting canceled. The money was invested in everything from the equipment I needed to complete the jobs, to the materials for multiple jobs, to labor and overhead, that decided to cancel after hearing about the first couple.
It will take me some time, but I intend to pay back or complete every project. I overextended myself as a company owner all by myself, and I have a lot of hard work ahead to make sure that each of the families get what they deserve.
I am focusing on doing great work going forward and using new business to help either repay or get the materials for most of the families impacted.
Covid and the economy has hit me hard, and I know that the families I have been working with are feeling the same stress.That isn’t an excuse for why it happened, but all I can do is be the best version of myself going forward. I want to focus on communication and expectations so that each family knows what steps I am taking to let them put this behind them, either with a beautiful new pool or the money they need to start this project with someone else.”