At the request of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot, a state district court issued a temporary restraining order and froze the assets of a pool contracting firm and a service firm owned by the same individual.
RGV Flamingo Pools of McAllen and RGV Pool Sharks in Pharr, along with owner Dennis Gomez, were accused of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices – Consumer Protection Act. The AG accused the company of abandoning pool construction jobs, comingling funds from the two companies and, in the case of Gomez, applying company funds to his own personal expenses.
Gomez established a pattern of taking deposits for at least 50 percent of a project’s cost, performing excavation and not coming back, or staying away for weeks, according to the AG’s complaint. Sometimes the remainder of the pool cost would be financed by Flamingo Pools, and if payments were not made, the builder on occasion removed pool and spa equipment and installed it on other projects, according to court papers.
Abbot’s office also claimed Flamingo Pools has averaged a nine-month construction timeline despite an advertised promise to complete pools in 100 days.
The complaint named three former customers, two whom said they had to hire second contractors to finish their projects and a third who alleged they were still waiting for their pool to be completed nearly ten months after signing the contract. One of the three homeowners claimed their pool was built in a kidney shape when it was supposed to be a lagoon shape. Another said the concrete shell was contracted incorrectly.
In the original filing, Abbot’s office sought fines up to $20,000 per violation ($250,000 if consumers 65 years or older were involved) as permitted by state law. However at press time, Abbot’s spokesperson said a settlement agreement had been entered into with Gomez, whereby he could continue to contract but would have to take such measures as paying restitution and completing certain projects.
“He has to stop deceiving consumers and making promises he cannot comply with,” said Teresa Farfan. “If there are any consumers who have been affected by his deceiving practices, he has to now either pay restitution to them or finish the job ... We are going to be monitoring the developments in compliance.”
As part of the agreement, the assets freeze was lifted. The arrangement is temporary and subject to change if the AG’s office finds that Gomez’s companies have not complied. A trial date is set for May 4.
Gomez also must abide by the orders of the injunction itself, which issued dozens of instructions. The builder must state in writing when projects will be finished and meet the deadlines, cannot apply funds collected from one customer to finance work for another, must accept payment by check and deposit those to a business account, and cannot move pool and spa equipment from one project to another.
Local builder Christopher Myers said that this year he has completed five projects started by Flamingo Pools. He believes part of the problem is that the area is tough to police, and he questions whether licensing would fix the problem in this case.
“You have to have licensing and you have to have some type of oversight,” says the president of Eden Swimming Pools & Landscaping in McAllen. “And because of our geographic location, which is 5 minutes from Mexico, we don’t get much oversight down here. … Our state government legislates things and they only have so much money, and they just don’t have the resources.”
Local press accounts say 20 lawsuits have been filed so far. A local Better Business Bureau spokesperson said the company had 16 complaints against it.
Calls to Gomez and his attorney were not returned.