BRANDON, Fla. - The investigation into a Brandon pool company has expanded to the state level. The company's owner was accused of collecting tens of thousands of dollars from customers and then leaving them high and dry, with unfinished pools. As the number of complaints piles up, so does the money clients say they've lost.
Attorney General Ashley Moody confirmed this week her office launched an investigation into Exclusive Pools and its owner, Patrick Reardon.
"As the attorney general, my job is to protect Floridians from either economic harm, sometimes in terms of prosecution, from criminal harm and I take that very seriously, which is why we're very thorough in our investigation," Moody told FOX 13. "Our attorneys and investigators will look at the complaints carefully. They'll have to do follow-up work to determine the validity of the complaints and whether or not it would merit further action. It's an ongoing investigation, so we won't comment further."
The attorney general's investigation is now the third by state or Hillsborough County officials into the company, which became the focus of a FOX 13 investigation in September after several customers called to complain.
Tampa attorney and legal expert Anthony Rickman said state authorities will be able to determine whether this was a criminal scheme.
"If there is a scheme, if [Exclusive Pools'] intent and their plan was to take that money and not perform the work, and if the government can prove that," Rickman said, "the owner of that company is looking at a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in Florida State Prison."
Rickman said law enforcement could also pursue grand theft charges because of the high dollar amounts involved in this case.
"What the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Attorney General's office has, they have specialized investigators who are able to distinguish between a civil matter...versus a criminal matter," Rickman said.
The company is also the center of two separate civil lawsuits filed by two subcontractors for a total of about $100,000. That's on top of the amount customers have said they paid Exclusive Pools, which now totals upwards of $1 million.
Bryan White told FOX 13 he paid the company $50,500 only to see work on his pool come to a sudden stop.
"I have not heard from [Reardon] since August," he said.
White has since decided to hire another pool company to finish the job, costing him an extra $55,000.
"It takes all year to budget for something like this, something of this caliber and then to be hit with a, 'hey, it's going to cost you double,' is just a real kick in the teeth," he said. "It's very difficult to be patient. We all want everything to happen right now. We want results today. We understand that there's policies and procedures and everybody has to do their job and the agencies are doing what they're supposed to be doing, it's just we just want things expedited in a more efficient manner."
Meanwhile, it's unclear if Exclusive Pools is even in business anymore. The company's sign has been taken down and tossed onto a pile of pool materials. No one answered the phone when FOX 13 called and the voicemail is full.
Reardon did not respond to texts Friday, but in an exchange last week he wrote, "I'm helping everyone that I can that is willing to work with me."
"If the communication is broken and he's not letting us know what he's doing, how is he working with us?" White said. "If he just pays us back the money that he owes us, refunds us, that's working for us right there."
State and county authorities have not revealed a timetable for their investigations.