TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office took action against James Staten, owner of embattled and now-shuttered Olympus Pools, according to court records reviewed by 8 On Your Side. In a news release sent to Better Call Behnken, Moody said she is “taking legal action against a Florida pool company and its owner for taking upfront payments and leaving jobs incomplete.”
“Floridians paid thousands of dollars upfront in order to have pools professionally constructed on their properties. What many received in exchange for these huge payments were incomplete pools and a lack of funds to pay another company to complete the work. We will not permit these deceptive trade practices in Florida, and my Consumer Protection Division is taking action to stop these practices and secure relief for those harmed by the defendants.”
Since March of this year, the Attorney General’s Office said it received more than 200 consumer complaints about Olympus Pools—amounting to an alleged total loss to these consumers of more than $8 million.
The civil action seeks to permanently ban the defendants from engaging in certain activities related to the pool construction business. The action also aims to require the company and its owners to provide restitution or reimbursement to affected consumers. In addition, the defendants could be liable for more than $2 million in civil penalties for violating the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
According to the civil complaint, Moody’s office seeks civil penalties against both Olympus Pools and James Staten of $10,000 for each violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), and $15,000 for each violation of FDUTPA that involved a senior citizen.
The complaint explains that because “Staten either directly controlled or had the authority to directly control and participate in the unfair and deceptive business practices of Olympus Pools, he can be held individually liable under FDUTPA.”
The lawsuit details some of the over 200 complaints Moody’s office received from Olympus Pools customers, including one customer who said the business “excavated a hole in his back yard for the swimming pool and ceased the work leaving a dangerous hole.”
Another customer complained “Olympus Pools repeatedly misstated the construction timeline and materials to be used for the project.”
“Some consumers also reported that they were not able to reach Staten or any other employee of Olympus Pools,” the lawsuit notes.
In addition to the civil action, the AG office says it’s Office of Statewide Prosecution is assisting local law enforcement with a criminal investigation.
Last week, 8 On Your Side reporter Shannon Behnken reported that James Staten and his wife filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The Attorney General’s office is asking for an “order declaring that the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. § 362 is inapplicable to the Attorney General” and their forthcoming filing against Staten. Alternatively, Moody’s office is asking the court “to grant the Attorney General relief from the automatic stay and, if applicable, waive the fourteen (14) day stay under Rule 4001(a)(3).”
Behnken has reached out to Staten for a response to the filing and is waiting to hear back.
It’s unclear how the Attorney General’s motion could impact Staten’s bankruptcy case moving forward.
Staten’s bankruptcy proceeding is scheduled for a hearing today at 2:00 p.m. Better Call Behnken will be monitoring those proceedings and will bring the latest updates to you on-air and across WFLA’s digital platforms.
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This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.