In better times: Aqua Pool and Spa was

known for having built one of the industry’s largest

showrooms, a 6,000-square-foot display area including several

full-sized pools and spas. The mega-center was built before the

economic crisis, and some speculate that the investment played a

large role in the company’s end.
In better times: Aqua Pool and Spa was known for having built one of the industry’s largest showrooms, a 6,000-square-foot display area including several full-sized pools and spas. The mega-center was built before the economic crisis, and some speculate that the investment played a large role in the company’s end.

California’s attorney general has filed an official accusation against Aqua Pool and Spa Inc., the Pool & Spa News Top Builder that abruptly closed its doors last summer.

The Manteca, Calif.-based company, which ranked seventh on last year’s Pool & Spa News Top 50 Builder list, ceased operation in August, stating it couldn’t cover a $3 million note that had been called in by the lender.

So far, 141 complaints have been filed against the firm — 122 by homeowners whose pools and spas were left incomplete, and 19 by vendors and subcontractors still awaiting payment.

The state attorney general is representing California’s Contractors State License Board. CSLB seeks to revoke the licenses not only of Aqua Pool, but also of a second company owned by one of its officers, called Rangel Pools.

“We feel confident that a strong enough case is being built to revoke the licenses,” said CSLB spokesman Rick Lopes.

The accusation names four individuals:

President/CEO Richard Townsend and

officers Gregg Whitley, Bryan Townsend and Julio Rangel. They are charged with project abandonment, departure from trade standards, failure to pay material suppliers,

collecting progress payments that exceeded work performed, and failure to complete

projects for the contracted price.

If the administrative court rules against Aqua Pool, the four individuals will be prohibited from contracting for a specified period, typically about five years. After that period, they can reapply, but CSLB has the option of refusing to issue new licenses based on various factors.

“It certainly would not be automatic that after a certain time they would be able to get a license,” Lopes said. “It’s pretty serious the number of people who were injured by this and, quite frankly, it would be doubtful that they would be able to get a license again.”

CSLB also may press for restitution for some of the clients and for court costs, though that becomes harder to collect when a company has already gone out of business.

It could take upwards of seven months before hearings take place.

In the meantime, CSLB continues to work with district attorneys in affected counties to determine whether Aqua Pool should be charged with criminal offenses.

“The investigation will gather the information, then a DA will decide if they feel there is enough evidence to move forward and if criminal charges are warranted,” Lopes said.

CSLB found the average loss taken by Aqua Pool customers to be between $5,000 and $7,000, but CSLB reports that most of the homeowners have found ways to finish their pools and move on. “They have determined that it is in their best financial interest to get the jobs finished and write off the losses to experience,” Lopes said.