The pool builder that faces a lawsuit from the Florida attorney general for deceptive and unfair practices has had its assets frozen amid new charges.
In June, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi sued Nationwide Pools of Pompano Beach, Fla., along with its president, Keith Stuart, and key employees. The suit accused them of deceptive acts and practices, failing to complete pool construction and not paying subcontractors.
The suit also named Stuart’s wife, Lynn, who served as company vice president, secretary and treasurer, and Nationwide’s finance and operations manager, Felicia Josephina Mallia.
Last month, Bondi’s office amended the lawsuit, accusing the builder of continuing to work under a different name. According to Bondi’s office, Nationwide Pools transferred its assets to a company called National Construction Group and continued doing business. Bondi also said the defendants continued the deceptive sales and marketing practices of which they originally had been accused.
“Faced with mounting lawsuits and consumer complaints, Stuart intentionally bankrupted Nationwide Pools to avoid the reach of creditors and surreptitiously transferred its remaining assets to National Construction Group, to the detriment of Nationwide Pools’ consumers,” Bondi’s office stated in its complaint with the court. “Stuart is now actively selling new pools to Florida consumers under the corporate name of National Construction Group.”
A court order was then issued freezing National Construction Group’s assets and enjoining the defendants from performing pool construction or remodeling.
The amended lawsuit includes two new defendants, Terry Lynn Edwards and The Kings Highway General Contracting Inc., which was renamed National Construction Group. Before joining with Stuart, Edwards was president of Kings Highway and was a licensed general contractor, according to the suit. Under the new company, the operators continued to sell and collect deposits and payments, Bondi said.
Stuart formed National Construction Group with Edwards while he was still operating Nationwide Pools, according to court documents. Bondi’s office alleged that The Kings Highway General Contracting filed for a name change to National Construction Group Inc. with the Florida State Department about a month before Nationwide closed. It also relocated from Fort Pierce, Fla., where Edwards lives, to about a mile from Nationwide’s headquarters in Pompano Beach, court documents said.
“Edwards directly and intentionally participated in and assisted Stuart with bankrupting Nationwide Pools and transferring its assets to National Construction Group, to the detriment of Nationwide Pools’ consumers,” Bondi’s office said in its complaint.
Lynn Stuart and Mallia are accused of helping form the new company.
In the original complaint, Bondi’s office accused the company of falsely advertising an on-time guarantee, only to deliver the product weeks and months after the deadline. Nationwide Pools also was accused of misrepresenting manufacturer warranties and rebates. According to court documents, the builder claimed certain manufacturers offered lifetime warranties and advertised nonexistent manufacturer rebates, complete with fake serial numbers, to create a greater sense of urgency and rush homeowners to buy.
“Nationwide Pools … would then mark up the price of the pools and/or otherwise include the cost of the ‘rebate’ in the total price charged to consumers so that, in fact, no rebate or discount was actually obtained,” the complaint said.
Additionally, Bondi said the builder attempted to differentiate itself by claiming to use in-house crews when it actually hired subcontractors to perform most stages, and did so without providing the required lien notices to the clients.
Bondi also said Nationwide failed to pay subcontractors, causing them to place liens on consumers’ homes; failed to complete pools; refused to let customers out of their contracts if they were denied financing and even deceptively tried to finance pools itself.