TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said James Staten, the owner of defunct Olympus Pools, used customers’ money to buy Super Bowl tickets worth more than $50,000 and expensive trips.
Staten turned himself in at the Pasco County Jail Monday. The FDLE said Staten is facing 35 counts related to fraud.
Mark Brutnell with FDLE said Staten defrauded 140 victims in Hillsborough, Pasco, Sarasota, Polk, Manatee and Pinellas counties.
In 2021, Better Call Behnken exposed hundreds of unfinished pools the company left scattered in multiple Tampa Bay area counties.
They said Staten used customers’ money to take all expensed paid trips to Las Vegas, Key West, Jamaica and New Orleans.
Brutnell said Staten spent $53,000 on Super Bowl LV tickets, which was held in Tampa.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said Staten took more than $1.5 million from customers.
Staten’s arrest comes after Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced last month that he is banned for life from the pool business.
Staten’s criminal defense attorney, Rick Escobar, told Better Call Behnken that 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.”
The case will progress through the court system.
“This is just the beginning of a long fight,” Moody said. “We will not stand idly by while folks take advantage of Floridians. We are going to use every tool to make sure folks are held accountable.”