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Florida regulators shut down major builder

Florida regulators shut down major builder Florida regulators shut down major builder

Olympus Pools, one of state’s largest, faces actionfromconsumeragencyandcustomers

A year ago, Tampa-based Olympus Pools enjoyed an “A” rating with the Better Business Bureau and billed itself as the largest custom pool builder in the state of Florida. Now, its owners have lost their business license, closed shop, face numerous lawsuits, have filed personal bankruptcy, and have been threatened with a permanent ban from working in pool construction.

Founded in 2010, Olympus pools and its owner James Staten had a good reputation and had built more than 3,000 luxury pools in the Tampa Bay area to generally positive review. And when the pandemic hit, with so many people stuck at home, Olympus had more business than they knew what to do with.

Public records show that 2020 was an exceptionally busy year for Olympus relative to years past. In Pasco County, Olympus pulled 356 permits in 2020, a jump from 183 the year before. And in Hillsborough, permits went from 168 to 241.

But in April 2021, NBC affiliate WFLA “Better Call Behnken” and ABC Action News I-Team began reporting stories about Olympus’s dissatisfied customers. Their initial investigations turned up greater than five dozen complaints against Olympus, all claiming incomplete pool installations. Customers complained of giant holes in their backyards and trash-strewn

Since March of 2020, the Attorney General’s Office has received more than 200 consumer complaints against Olympus Pools, amounting to an alleged total loss of $8 million.The defendants could be liable for more than $2 million in civil penalties for violating the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Image credit: construction projects that were never finished. To receive discounted pricing, many had paid for their new pools up front, only to have the work never completed.

Pool and spa professionals are well aware that the industry is badly blemished by disreputable, fly-by-night pool building companies that take money only to leave unfinished holes.

But James Staten and Olympus Pools seem like a different case. Staten is a proud father of five and has featured prominently in his community, known for giving frequently to charitable organizations and supporting local groups such as the Pasco Firefighters Charities, the New Tampa YMCA, American Nurses, a local women’s shelter, and more.

Olympus was listed in the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 2020 Fast 50 — the fastest-growing companies in the Tampa Bay area — and also was one of fewer than 150 Florida companies to be certified as a Great Place to Work


in 2020.

Based on its performance through 2019, Olympus Pools was named No. 2,411 on the 2020 “Inc. (magazine) 5000” with three-year revenue growth of 172%. The Inc. 5000 is the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies across all industries.

Does this seem like a guy who takes your money and runs?

Like everyone else in the pool industry (and now pretty much every industry) Staten suffered the repercussions of the supply chain crisis that is currently featured prominently in the news. But last April, that topic wasn’t yet on the public radar.

In late April, Staten sent the following email to WFTS, ABC Action News: As the largest custom pool builder in Florida, Olympus has enjoyed building relationships and thousands of luxury pools for many years. We did not foresee the impacts COVID-19 would have on product demand, supply chain, and manufacturing. These issues that are out of our control, have affected our industry as a whole. Of the nearly 1,000 customers who purchased a pool from us last year, we understand a few are frustrated with the extended time frames during the pandemic. We are all looking forward to seeing things “normalize” and hope the impacts of Covid on the construction industry begin to lessen in the near future. We look forward to continuing to serve our community and building many more luxury backyard resorts.”

Few were convinced. By May, Olympus was in a world of trouble.

Urged by local news channels, dissatisfied customers took their complaints to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and directly to the office of Florida’s Attorney General, Ashley Moody, prompting an “active review” of the matter.

Multiple news channels reported that Olympus Pools was the subject of a Pasco County Sheriff’s Office criminal investigation for fraudulent business practices. At the time, insisted that Olympus Pools was completing pools every day, detailing the exact nature of the work being done and attempting to remind the public of the sterling reputation his company had once enjoyed.

Then SCP hit them with a $1.1 million-dollar lawsuit for failure to make a payment of $191,000.

In a statement sent to “Better Call Behnken,” Staten explained: “The balance mentioned in the complaint you provided is actually a line of credit we have had with SCP. We were told by SCP the promissory note was a formality to secure the line of credit for the account we have with them, and we were not aware of the complaint until we were contacted by the media.

As far as we understand, we continue

James Staten with family donating to ‘Feeding Tampa Bay’. Photo credit: Neighborhood News.

Page 20 Service Industry News November 1, 2021

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