NORTH LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Knox Pools states on its website that "since 1988, we have built our good reputation by providing honest, quality work and taking care of our customers."
A+ ratings, no complaints, 30 years of pool design and specializing in renovation and construction services are reasons why Maryann Lojek said she decided to hire Knox Pools to remodel her pool.
"Everyone was raving about them," she said. "Come to find out about a month ago, an email got sent to my husband [saying] that they went out of business."
Lojek provided the "Leave it to Layron" team with a copy of the message, which was sent by a former Knox Pools general manager to customers. It read, in part:
"I regret to inform you that Knox Pools (who've been in business since 1988) has been closed indefinitely for reasons unknown. An unfortunate business decision that was made by the owners of which its own employees were unaware of. I myself want to apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. It is my personal opinion I'm sure you would rather get some sort of information instead of just guessing. It's unfortunate it won't be coming from the owners. I sincerely wish everyone luck."
The message included a list of "dependable" pool companies for customers to contact. But, there was no mention of the $7,571 Lojek said she and her husband paid Knox Pools in full to remodel the pool at their North Lauderdale home.
Lojek's receipts show the money was paid in January for a job that was scheduled to begin in May.
"It's tiresome," Lojek said. "I'm just aggravated that we got taken."
Lojek said all she wants is her money back.
She and her husband are now suing Knox Pools and Donna and William Knox, the couple who previously owned the company, Victorine Enterprises, LLC, which now does business as Knox Pools, and its operations manager, Scott Donaldson.
The LITL team discovered other lawsuits filed against the company. A judge recently ordered Knox Pools to pay HornerXpress-South Florida, Inc., a Fort Lauderdale-based pool equipment supplier, more than $52,000.
Another customer's lawsuit claims negligence on the part of the company and its operations manager after inspectors put a stop to the pool construction at his Lighthouse Point property.
The suit claims, among many things, that the manager was "liquidating assets for his own personal benefit."
A lawsuit filed by Knox Pools' landlord to get the company evicted from the North Federal Highway building it occupies is also pending.
"Have the decency to step forward, step up to the plate and give everyone you owe money to their money back instead of running like a bunch of chickens," Lojek said.
Knox Pools was more like Fort Knox when the LITL team stopped by. The back lot was full of company trucks and vans parked just beyond the pad-locked gates.
We tried calling the business line and the voicemail was full.
We tried other phone numbers for the operations manager and found some numbers were disconnected. We also visited an apartment building in Boca Raton, believed to be a last known address for Donaldson, the operations manager. No one answered the door when we knocked.
According to court documents, Lee County deputies tried serving Donaldson with the Lojek's lawsuit at a Milford Place address in Fort Myers. They got no answer, but a business partner reportedly told deputies, "Donaldson is somewhere in Texas and doesn't live here."
The LITL team also visited a home in Boca Raton, the last known address we could find for William and Donna Knox.
A man answered through a speaker connected to the digital doorbell. He said he bought the house after the Knox family moved three years ago. The last he heard, they'd relocated to Tennessee. He also said he'd had several recent visits from authorities looking to serve court documents.
We're told Knox Pools was sold to new owners around the same time the Knox family relocated.
The LITL team's calls to a Tennessee address connected to the Knox family went unanswered.
When we contacted the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, there were no public complaints on file and the business licenses associated with Knox Pools were current.
Lojek has since filed a complaint with the state.
DBPR officials said Knox Pools is qualified by Scott Donaldson and customers can go to the agency website to file complaints, or they can call 850-487-1395.
If the contractor is found guilty of violating Florida law and restitution is ordered, customers may be eligible for the Recovery Fund. A claim filed against a licensed contractor is scheduled for a hearing before the Recovery Fund Committee, which determines eligibility.
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