A Pennsylvania pool builder currently is behind bars.
Thomas Hodak was found guilty July 31 of deceptive business
practices, theft by deception and receiving advance payment for
services he failed to perform, according to Chuck Washburn, the
Westmoreland County assistant district attorney. All three
convictions are third-degree felonies.
Hodak is scheduled to be sentenced within 90 days of his
conviction. At press time, he was being held in lieu of $25,000 bond.
Homeowner Laura Bendtsen filed charges when Hodak took a deposit of
approximately $2,000 to build her pool, but then abandoned the
project and it became hard for Bendtsen to reach him. “He did
do some work, but we didn’t believe he did nearly the work a
person would charge that much money for,” Washburn said.
This isn’t the first time Westmoreland County, Pa., has
prosecuted a contractor for not doing what was promised.
“We’ve taken a pretty tough stance on contractors who
take money and don’t perform their duties,” Washburn said.
Other members of Hodak’s family have been successfully
building pools in that part of the state for years, according to
Tom Esser, sales manager of Allison Park, Pa.-based builder
Alpine Pools Inc. “People like Hodak put a sour taste in
people’s mouths,” Esser said. “This kind of stuff
isn’t good for anyone in the industry.
“The bad part of it is that he’s a fantastic builder;
he has a lot of innovative ideas,” Esser added.
The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals urges
pool builders to not only follow the law, but also be licensed and
certified in their specialties. “It’s in the
industry’s best interest to promote certification and
licensing so that consumers choose to build relationships with
individuals who value continuing education and commit to best
practices,” said Lisa Grepps, APSP marketing and
Even before Hodak faced criminal charges, he had a history of legal
problems and dissatisfied customers.
A consent decree was entered in 1998 that required Hodak, among
other things, to accept only payment for services completed, or a
deposit of no more than 50 percent of the services he contracted to provide.
Then, in 2009, a judge prohibited Hodak from entering into any new
contracts related to home improvements, pool construction or sale
of pool equipment. He was also found in contempt of court and
ordered to pay civil penalties totaling $20,000 in four cases that
came before the court at that time. Three plaintiffs were awarded a
total of $28,969 in restitution.
In 2011, a judge awarded $43,800 for restitution to four more
customers of Hodak, and fined him $20,000. He was also jailed late
last year in connection with contempt charges related to previous
complaints about his contracting practices.
“Obviously, with Mr. Hodak’s history, that helped us in
deciding to file charges in this case,” Washburn said.
But for one of Hodak’s customers, legal action wasn’t
enough. Andy Spero of Wexford, Pa., decided to do what he could to
keep others from being victimized by Hodak.
In 2004, Spero contracted Hodak to build a vinyl-liner pool for his
home. According to Spero, Hodak used the wrong liner, built the
pool steps at different heights and incorrectly stained the
concrete. Spero lost the money he had paid to Hodak, about 50
percent of the pool’s total cost.
“The work wasn’t done to the right quality and it
wasn’t completed,” Spero said.
He started a Website (tomhodak.com) to discourage other potential customers.
The site is subtitled “Welcome to Our Nightmarish Pool Experience!”
“I don’t want other people to suffer through this. I
wanted to warn other people,” Spero said.