The owner of the now defunct Nationwide Pools pleaded not guilty to two charges of grand theft as customers allege he took their money but never finished their pools.
Keith Stuart was scheduled to plead guilty Friday but instead arrived at the Martin County Courthouse with a new attorney.
"I apologize that it went down," he said. "I do feel for the clients but it's [a] business that's gone out of business and the truth will come out."
Prosecutors say Stuart stole thousands from two homeowners in Martin County. Dozens more in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties claim the same -- that he took their money, dug their pools, started the work, then walked away.
Nationwide Pools shutdown in May, leaving several other unfinished pools across South Florida.
The Florida attorney general's lawsuit against Stuart described his practice of deceiving customers as "deliberate and systematic," accusing him of threatening his customers, double charging them, and promising bogus warranties without ever having the intention of finishing their pools.
The state is seeking full reimbursement for the victims, but is aware that the remaining assets of Nationwide Pools are insufficient to cover the cost.
Although his state license to build pools was revoked in October, Stuart became a silent partner in a company called the National Construction Group, according to the attorney general. The front man of the company was Terry Edwards, a good friend of Stuart's.
Authorities say Stuart continued to cheat customers under the new company name.
The Broward State Attorney's Office offered no comment on whether it'll prosecute Stuart.
He's due back in court in February.