VERO BEACH, Fla. — The owner of a Vero Beach pool business and her husband have been arrested on charges related to taking money from customers with no intent to finish the job, police said.
Amore Pools Inc., based in Vero Beach, has been in business for just over two years. But Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators said the company has already defrauded upwards of 150 customers out of at least $2 million.
According to FDLE, investigators arrived at Chrystal and Brian Washburn's home Tuesday morning and arrested the couple, each on 16 felony counts related to money laundering, organized scheme to defraud, and identity theft, related to forging official documents, and insurance fraud.
Chrystal is facing at least a million-dollar bond, officials said.
According to booking documents, Brian does not have a bond.
A neighbor recorded a video showing the arrest at the Washburn's home where investigators said they have also seized cars and a work truck.
WPTV heard complaints from customers about Amore Pools in June, saying the company was taking way too long to finish projects and, in most cases, never finishing the job.
FDLE investigators said they got involved in July. Through the course of their investigation, they confirmed nearly 150 customers shared a similar story with them.
According to investigators, customers would pay large upfront deposits and for more than half of the total project, but that's when work would stop or slow down so much that they ended up just firing the company.
Authorities said Chrystal lied on her application to be able to build pools in Port St. Lucie, which was the approval other counties or cities used to also let Amore build pools from Jupiter to the Treasure Coast, Okeechobee and Brevard County.
The FDLE said the Washburns forged signatures on some permits or even signatures of subcontractors.
Investigators also said checks from customers were cashed but never deposited into business accounts, making that money harder to find.
“Our investigation was able to reveal that they weren't using traditional banking institutions to cash checks," according to the FDLE. "They were essentially using a third-party cash checking store to cash those moneys and walk out the door.”
This type of investigation would typically take anywhere from six months to a year. But FDLE said this case went fast because they wanted to "stop the bleeding" and protect more potential victims.
“We couldn't let these fraudsters in our community continue to perpetrate this crime,” according to the FDLE. "I do believe it is shameful and disgusting that there are people in this world that take advantage of good, honest, hard-working people for their own personal greed."
St Lucie, Martin, Indian River counties and the city of Stuart had already suspended or revoked Amore's ability to build new pools prior to the arrest because of complaints.
As a result, investigators said, they spent time following the Washburns, finding they were trying to find new businesses in the Orlando area, Palm Beach County area and even Sarasota.
Investigators said there may be additional victims. If you know the Washburns or had business with them, call the FDLE's Fort Pierce Field Office at 772-302-3975.