POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – Last week, Local 10 told you about a Nationwide Pools customer who claimed the company hasn't been out to his house in two months -- leaving his pool unfinished -- despite paying the company $32,000. Since the, we've been flooded with phone calls and emails from angry viewers who said they too have been ripped off by the local pool building company.
The Florida Attorney General's office is currently reviewing eight complaints that it has received against Nationwide Pools, Inc. so far this year, according to John Lucas, a spokesperson for the Attorney General Pam Bondi.
"They convinced me that they were the one, they were the best pool company for this job," said Susan Jordan-Reed. She signed a contract with Nationwide Pools in 2009 to remodel the pool so it would be accessible to her handicapped son. Today, more than four years later, the only thing swimming in her backyard of her Cooper City home are tad poles and tree frogs.
Jordan-Reed said she paid the company $22,000 to do the work but in the middle of the job, the pool popped out of the ground and cracked.
"They were supposed to come back and fix the cracks and redo the Diamond Brite and I haven't seen them since," Jordan-Reed told Local 10's Roger Lohse. "And that was three years ago." she said.
Local 10 has learned that Nationwide Pools is currently facing several civil lawsuits, it has an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau and a former employee, who asked not to be identified, told us owner Keith Stuart is drowning in debt.
"He has not paid his suppliers, owes contractors money. Recently he's been shut out by two major suppliers for non-payment," the former employee said.
Lohse talked to Stuart on the phone Monday. He said he is working hard to pull the company out of the financial deep end. Stuart also said he's selling his $3 million home in Parkland, to keep Nationwide Pools afloat. And he claims he has plastered 40 pools so far this year and has been given final permit inspections on 30 of them.
"The challenge in these types of cases is proving intent," said Detective Mitch Gordon of the Broward Sheriff's Office Economic Crimes division. "That it was the intent of the contractor to take the money and not do any of the work, or start the work and abandon the job."
Gordon said there's a fine line separating a bad business man and crooked one and he warned that consumers should never pay a contractor for work or materials that haven't been provided.
"Usually if it's legitimate, viable contractor, they're going to have funds to buy supplies. So if a contractor says you have to pay me so I can buy supplies, I would be a little bit leery about that," he said.
Jordan-Reed has pretty much given up on Nationwide Pools and surrendered her backyard to the frogs.
"It has to be all taken out and redone," she said.
If you've been victimized by Nationwide Pools, you can file a complaint by visiting the Florida Attorney General's website.
If you've feel you've been deceived by any company or are the victim of unfair trade practices, the Florida Attorney General's Office can be reached at 850-414-3990, or by going to myfloridalegal.com.