A New Jersey pool contractor recently sentenced to three years in jail plus restitution was scheduled for another sentencing in April — and faces a lawsuit from the state for charges related to unfinished pools and improper business practices. Donald Tallman, vice president of Hammonton-based fiberglass pool installer and manufacturer Water World Fiberglass Pools Inc., pleaded guilty to theft charges, according to Cape May County Superior Court documents. On March 13, he was sentenced to the jail time plus $16,250 in restitution. He was scheduled to be sentenced April 17 in Atlantic County Superior Court for two counts of writing bad checks.
The convictions stemmed from a failure to complete pools after accepting deposits and payments from customers, and issuing checks from the company, knowing the account didn’t have sufficient funds.
Besides criminal charges, Water World and Tallman have faced civil lawsuits. On March 25, a $21,425 partial default judgment was issued in favor of Kiss Electric, LLC, said the subcontractor’s attorney, Vincent Guarna. The Levittown, Pa.-based company sued Water World for nonpayment in spring 2014. The defendant did not have representation in the matter.
The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs filed a civil lawsuit in March against the company as a result of 17 consumer complaints it received. The state’s complaint alleges Tallman and Water World violated the Consumer Fraud Act, Contractors’ Registration Act and related regulations.
“When Water World allegedly failed to perform the work consumers had paid for, many of those consumers lost more than their down payments,” said John J. Hoffman, New Jersey’s acting attorney general, in a statement. “They also faced significant additional costs related to excavating huge holes and otherwise preparing for the installation of inground pools that never reached their homes.”
Alleged infractions against consumers include performing substandard work and not completing demanded repairs; starting work, then leaving the job for weeks or never returning; and refusing to issue refunds of deposits or down payments when permits weren’t approved or pools weren’t delivered.
The amounts customers lost range from $624 to about $46,000, according to the Division of Consumer Affairs.
“Consumers should not have to fear being ripped off or abused when hiring a pool installation company or any other type of home improvement contractor,” said Steve Lee, the acting director of New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
The state also claims Water World submitted false information in March 2014 when applying for reinstatement of its home improvement contractor registration, a state requirement of pool contractors who install residential inground pools. According to the complaint, Water World’s insurance policy had expired in July 2013, but the company’s reinstatement submission claimed that it had general liability insurance as law requires.
The initial violation of the Consumer Fraud Act or the Contractors Registration Act carries a civil penalty up to $10,000, and each subsequent violation has a penalty up to $20,000.
According to the Better Business Bureau, Water World is believed to be out of business. There was no answer at the phone number listed for the business. The BBB received 24 complaints from July 2013 to July 2014 that the business didn’t respond to, and one from September 2014 where the business couldn’t be found. Four complaints from 2013 were resolved.
Media reports noted Tallman was arrested in June 2014 for his criminal charges.
Two other lawsuits related to the state action have been filed against Water World by individuals, according to the Division of Consumer Affairs. Tallman could not be reached for comment.