Local 10 has learned that a local pool builder accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from South Florida homeowners was recently arrested on a very different charge, and it has nothing to do with his business practices.
Keith Stuart wasn't in the mood to talk after spending 18 hours in the Broward County Jail. The former owner of Nationwide Pools of Pompano Beach stands accused by the attorney general of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from homeowners who hired him to build their pools. Stuart allegedly took their money, dug the holes, then left them high and dry.
But that's not why Stuart spent a night in the slammer. He was arrested for soliciting a prostitute.
Souren Sarkar, a victim of Stuart's pool scam, is surprised because last month Stuart filed for personal bankruptcy, meaning Sarkar will likely never recover the $45,000 he gave Stuart to build his pool last year.
"That makes me really mad," said Sarkar. "I mean, it's none of my business, his personal life, but I shudder to think, what is financing that? If that's my funds, I have a real problem with that."
According to the arrest affidavit, Stuart answered an ad on Backpage.com, a smutty classifieds website advertising, among other things, escort and body rub services.
It happened last Thursday afternoon at the Hilton Hotel right off Interstate 95 at Griffin Road.
According to the report, Stuart offered to pay $100 for 45 minutes with the woman. It turns out the escort was really an undercover Broward sheriff's detective.
At the time of his arrest, records show Stuart had just over $500 cash in his wallet, $300 of which went to pay his bond on the misdemeanor charge.
Stuart is facing felony grand theft charges in Martin County related to his pool-building business. His license to build pools has been revoked, and the attorney general has filed a civil suit against him. According to bankruptcy records, Stuart claims $1.7 million in assets and more than $3.5 million in debts.
Experts in construction law said it's unlikely the solicitation charge will have any bearing on Stuart's bankruptcy case, but it's having a huge impact in the court of his customers' opinions.
"I mean, that's really the last thing I'd do if I was facing charges from the attorney general and my customers," Sarkar said.
Stuart's attorney released a statement to Local 10 stating, "Mr. Stuart feels horribly about the pain he has caused his family and for the customers whose pools he was, unintentionally, unable to finish."
Stuart blamed the downturn in the economy for his money troubles.
Homeowners who feel they were ripped off by Nationwide Pools have until April 15 to file their claims with the bankruptcy court.