PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – To date, Paulina Hurtado has paid more than $34,000 for a new pool going into her backyard.
"They were supposed to be done by the first of August," Hurtado said. The Leave it to Layron team met her at her Pembroke Pines home later that same month. The empty shell of what was supposed to be her pool was surrounded by dirt and a small pile of pavers.
Hurtado has since added the damage to her neighbors' yard — from the construction traffic — a broken irrigation system, fines from her community association, and the thousands of dollars she's been quoted to fix and finish her pool to her losses.
Hurtado shared her story on Facebook and ended up hearing from more homeowners who'd hired the same company — Parkwood Pools and Pavers, LLC. Those homeowners, too, had stopped hearing from the company. Some were left with rebar and dirty holes in their backyards.
So, Hurtado coordinated a meeting.
"As people started coming in, I kept getting more sick to my stomach," she said. "I could not believe the amount of people that showed up."
Emelina Soler was one of them.
"I started my project in June," Soler said. Soler showed the LITL team photographs from the backyard of her home, showing poured concrete and dirt.
"[It's] full of all kinds of mosquito water, basically," Soler said. "Thank God for her that she put it together because I was lost. I didn't know what to do," she said, referring to Hurtado.
After Hurtado learned about the pool company's closing, she organized a meeting, bringing together Soler and dozens of other homeowners who paid Parkwood Pools and Pavers, LLC for projects that have yet to be completed.
"I'm here because I want to prevent this from happening to anymore families," Hurtado said.
She is now suing the company, along with other customers, vendors and suppliers. We know Hurtado and other homeowners have already received claims of lien from unpaid contractors.
"It looks like, to me, it was almost a scheme to defraud a lot of different people, but I don't know that at this point," Hurtado's lawyer, Robert Shearin, said.
At the time, no one with the company had responded to the complaint he filed.
"From everything that I've found out so far, it doesn't look like Parkwood Pools and Pavers, LLC was doing any of the building," he said. "They were contracting all of it out."
"It's a sad story," Robert Estell said. He said he worked for Parkwood Pools and Pavers, LLC for nearly seven months before the company closed its doors. Estell is a contractor and was the qualifier for the company, meaning the company used his license to pull the permits required for each project.
"When they closed the business, they took all the permits, all the files, all the information," he said. "I can't even get into the office to contact the people."
The LITL team has learned nearly 40 projects are still open.
When we spoke to Estell, he claimed he had not been paid in weeks. He also said that he'd filed his own complaint with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Estell was invited to the gathering of pool-less homeowners. He said came to give options for finishing the pool jobs. Those options included spending more money, which did not go over well with the crowd.
"What everyone needs to do is contact their local building department, find out what inspections were missed, get the records and permit card," Benjamin Sens said.
Hurtado also invited him to the meeting. He is a former city building inspector and now runs a company that helps resolve open permit and code violations for real estate deals.
"Their contractor really left them hanging," Sens said. "The financially responsible officer, the qualifier, they all have everything to do with one another. They are a party to what is going."