FDLE arrests Vero Beach business owners for scheme to defraud, money laundering
Posted by: Staff
Date: Oct 06 2021 9:52 AM
FORT PIERCE, Fla. – FDLE agents arrested local pool contractors Brian and Chrystal Washburn, of Amore’ Pools Inc., after a scheme to defraud homeowners by taking large deposits to build in-ground residential swimming pools, but never completing the projects.
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “The defendants took thousands of dollars in upfront payments, then dug holes in customers’ backyards with no intention of ever finishing the work they were paid to complete. This fraudulent pool-contracting scheme harmed dozens of Floridians and violated several state laws. We will make sure these defendants are held accountable for their criminal actions.”
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, “When fraud occurs, it often impacts more than just a bank account. These Floridians worked tirelessly to save for a swimming pool for their family to enjoy, only to have their hard-earned money stolen and their property damaged. As your CFO, I’m committed to cracking down on criminals who look to use hard-working Floridians as their own personal ATMs. I’m thankful for the cooperation between my fraud detectives, the Florida Attorney General’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and all involved to put an end to this fraud scheme, and ensure those involved are held accountable.”
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, “Every action by Brian and Chrystal Washburn was taken to perpetrate this fraud, from obtaining the initial contractor’s license, to taking large deposits from their victims, to how they cashed the Amore’ Pools deposit checks. I appreciate the long hours and hard work by our FDLE agents, analysts and partners to stop this scheme and save other homeowners from being victimized.”
Once a contract was signed, victims were required to pay a 25 percent deposit. Homeowners in Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and Martin counties signed contracts with Amore’ Pools. In some cases, projects were abandoned before work was started, but other times the Washburns dug large holes in the victims’ backyards with dangerous debris piles around the project site. The overwhelming majority of pools were never completed.
FDLE agents say the scheme resulted in losses of over $2 million from hundreds of victims. Upon receiving deposit checks from homeowners, the Washburns used a third-party check cashing store to convert the checks into cash in an attempt to conceal the illicit funds.
The investigation began in July, and investigators say the couple provided numerous fraudulent documents and at least one forged signature in their credentialing application packet in 2017. Using this fraudulent information, Amore’ Pools became a registered pool/spa contractor.
Florida’s Department of Financial Services and Department of Corrections Probation Services, along with sheriff’s offices in St. Lucie, Indian River, and Martin counties assisted with the investigation along with Port St. Lucie Police Department.
Agents served search warrants at the Washburn residence and Amore’ Pools on Tuesday. Brian and Chrystal Washburn are charged with false information on an application for contractor’s license, working as an unlicensed contractor, organized scheme to defraud, identity theft, money laundering, concealing information to avoid workers compensation premiums and insurance application fraud.
The Washburns were booked into Indian River County Jail. This case is being prosecuted by Office of Statewide Prosecution.