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FDLE charges Amore Pools owner Chrystal Washburn of Indian River County

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The owner of a pool construction company that has been the source of customer complaints across the Treasure Coast was taken into custody late Tuesday, accused of defrauding $2 million from over 100 customers. 

Amore’ Pools owner Chrystal Washburn, 39, concocted a scheme to defraud homeowners by taking large deposits to build in-ground residential swimming pools, but never completed the projects, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, which announced the charges Wednesday.

Washburn faces 16 charges, including seven counts of identity fraud, four counts of money laundering, insurance fraud, contracting without a license, false statement of compliance and scheme to defraud. 

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Washburn, who lives in the 8300 block of 99th Court, was being held in lieu of $1.2 million bail at the Indian River County jail Wednesday.

Her husband, who has identified himself as an employee, also was charged. Bryan Washburn, 34, of the 200 block of Columbus Street in Sebastian, faces 16 counts, including organized scheme to defraud, identity theft, money laundering and insurance fraud.

“For the 150 victims that we know that are out there on the Treasure Coast, know that the Washburns are in the deep end right now,” St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said. “It’s not in the deep end of one of their pools. It’s the deep end of jail, and that’s where we want to keep them.” 

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Amore Pools attorney discusses reasons for construction delays

Attorney Doug Vitunac tells the Martin County Construction Board on June 23, 2021, that his client, Amore Pools, was delayed at several job sites.

Lamaur Stancil, Gannett Staff

Homeowners in Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and Martin counties signed contracts with Amore’ Pools, which required a 25% deposit, FDLE agents said. The overwhelming majority of pools never were completed.

The Washburns sometimes abandoned projects before starting any work, but sometimes dug large holes in backyards, leaving dangerous debris piles around the project site, law enforcement agents said. 

Unlicensed contractors

The company forged documents and fraudulently obtained credentials to become registered pool and spa contractors in 2017, FDLE officials allege. 

Upon receiving deposit checks from homeowners, the Washburns used a third-party check-cashing store to convert the checks into cash, in an attempt to conceal the illicit funds, law enforcement agents said. 

“Over time, I realized this was built on a sham,” Mascara said. “This was a sham company that had one goal in mind: Scamming victims, not only in St. Lucie County, but on the Treasure Coast.” 

Amore has an office in St. Lucie County and operates in all three Treasure Coast counties, as well as in Brevard, Palm Beach and Okeechobee counties. 

“This was not a business who was struggling to fulfill or to meet a strong consumer demand during a pandemic,” FDLE Special Agent Lee Massey said. “They systematically set out with a plan to defraud homeowners along the Treasure Coast and other counties. They never had a desire to build a small business, and their only goal was fraud.” 

Treasure Coast counties crack down 

All three Treasure Coast counties have taken disciplinary action against Amore since June. That includes an eight-year suspension in Martin County and a revocation of Amore’s contracting license in St. Lucie County in late August. 

In June, construction boards in Martin and Indian River voted to prohibit Amore from obtaining permits for eight months, and ordered the company to finish work on pools for which it has open permits. 

The Martin County board reconvened in August to find Amore had violated the ordinance for fraud, deceit gross negligence, incompetency, or misconduct, based on the complaints of four homeowners. Instead of the eight-month suspension, the board said Amore could not receive new permits from the county until January 2030. 

At the St. Lucie County Contractors Examining Board meeting on Aug. 24, the board voted to revoke Amore’s license indefinitely based on three homeowner complaints. 

Amore’s attorney had said pool supplies have been delayed for the last 1½ years because of the pandemic, which has caused his client’s projects to fall behind. However, none of the three Treasure Coast counties have sought to discipline any other pool contractor this year besides Amore. 

Other pool professionals agree there’s been supply-chain problems for the industry, but they’ve chosen to put off signing new contracts because of that. 

Some of the Amore complainants have taken the company to court, according to Indian River County clerk of court records. 

TCPalm reporter Max Chesnes contributed to this report. 

Lamaur Stancil is the Treasure Coast regional economy reporter covering business and industries, including retail, tourism and hospitality. Contact him at 321-987-7179 or [email protected] and follow him at Lamaur Stancil on Facebook and @TCPalmLStancil on Twitter.

Source: on 2021-10-06 11:00:00

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