TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Following a two-year Better Call Behnken investigation into unfinished pools, James Staten, the owner of defunct Olympus Pools, turned himself in at the Pasco County jail, facing 34 counts related to alleged fraud, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The bail is set at $2.8 million.
Those pending felony charges, according to FDLE, are: Aggravated white collar crime; Organized scheme to defraud; 20 counts of grand theft, eight counts missed application of construction funds; five counts contractor fraud.
All charges include surcharges, according to FDLE.
Staten’s criminal defense attorney, Rick Escobar, said he believes his client is innocent.
“We just got on this case last week and there is a lot of work to do,” Escobar said. “But what the public needs to understand is that sometimes, businesses go belly up and just because a business goes bankrupt and people lose money, that does not make it a crime.”
Homeowners throughout the Tampa Bay area were left to scramble to find other companies to finish their pools, even though many had already paid Olympus Pools – in full – for their projects.
An FDLE spokeswoman says agencies involved in this investigation include: FDLE, the Florida Attorney General’s Office and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, with participation with the afflicted counties in this case, including Hillsborough, Polk, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee, and Pasco counties.
The arrest comes on the heels of a civil lawsuit settlement with Florida Attorney General Moody, announced last month, that bans Staten for life from the pool business.
The Pasco County-based company abruptly shut its doors in 2021, after Better Call Behnken exposed hundreds of unfinished pools the company left scattered in multiple Tampa Bay area counties. The Attorney General’s Office and several law enforcement agencies at the time opened investigations.
According to Moody, Staten has agreed to dissolve Olympus Pools for good and agrees to a lifetime ban on managing any pool company. She said the company admitted that it violated Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
“We are in the thick of summer when many Floridians want to enjoy their pools with friends and family, including many Florida consumers who fell victim to this owner’s greed and were left with holes in their backyard,” Moody said. “My Consumer Protection Division shut down this company and secured a lifetime ban for this owner to ensure he will not operate any pool business in Florida, ever again.”
Court documents in the civil case show that the July settlement allows the AG’s office to pursue a million-dollar claim in the ongoing Olympus Pools bankruptcy case.
Court documents show the AG wanted to obtain a $10 million judgment, but because Staten demonstrated he doesn’t have the money, the AG will proceed with a $1 million judgment as part of Staten’s ongoing bankruptcy case.
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