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State wants owners of Nationwide Pools to pay back victims

Keith Stuart, wife, former finance manager face judge Monday

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The attorney general is going after the owner and operators of a local pool building company that's accused of taking more than $4 million from homeowners without finishing their pools.

Nationwide Pools of Pompano Beach was the focus of a Local 10 News investigation in which dozens of South Florida homeowners said the company's owner, Keith Stuart, took their deposits and left them with big concrete holes in their back yards.

Stuart, his wife, Lynne Stuart, and his former finance manager were in court Monday morning. So was Terry Edwards, the owner of National Construction Group, a corporation to which prosecutors claim Stuart transferred much of Nationwide Pools equipment and assets before it went out of business.

The attorney general asked the judge to make the defendants personally responsible for paying back the money that they allegedly stole under the protection of their corporation.

"This is not a case where any of the defendants can point the finger to some rogue employee -- for example, 'That employee did it. We had no idea.' That's not the case here," assistant attorney general Sara Shulman told Judge Michael Gates.

Stuart blamed his downfall on the economy, a former manager who he said stole his customers and Local 10, which exposed his scam.

"The most important thing in my life was my clients," Stuart said. "Well, what ended up happening is, due to the news, a lot of stuff came out of the woodwork."

Stuart and his co-defendants are representing themselves in court. It's unclear when the judge will decide if they should be personally responsible for paying back the homeowners who lost money to Nationwide Pools.

Follow Roger Lohse on Twitter @RogerLohse

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