STUART, Fla. — Dozens are homeowners who can't get ahold of their pool builder are out thousands of dollars and are left with a giant hole in their backyards.
"We just need to stop them from continuing to do this," Stephen Ferreira said.
Ferreira spoke with WPTV while standing in what was supposed to be a beautiful pool behind his Fort Pierce home.
"Their fraud is very clear," Ferreira said.
He's talking about Pro Pool Builders. He and his wife, Jessica, hired the company almost a year ago.
"They came and went, and now we have a hole," Jessica Ferreira said.
The Ferreiras paid Pro Pools $8,931 for the deposit when they first signed the contract back in September and then another $29,772 for the first installment in early April.
"I gave him the check. They dug the hole. I said, 'What is the next step?' He said that a steel guy would be out in the next couple [of] days," Stephen Ferreira said.
Days went by and Ferreira said no one showed up.
He went to the address for Pro Pools that was listed on his contract, and no one with the company was there.
"Turns out, it's a T-shirt company. I walk inside. I ask them, I show them the contract, and he says I was the second person there that day looking for Pro Pools," Ferreira said.
He went to two more addresses he found online for Pro Pools and finally found the office.
He told WPTV that a man was at the office. He allegedly took Ferreira's information and said he would call him, which never happened.
Several weeks have gone by and the Ferreiras said they now know of 30 other families who are all in the same situation.
"We did give them $50,000, and we haven't seen them since," Annmarie Pisani Broeren said.
Annmarie's Port St. Lucie backyard looks just like the Ferreira's, filled with a large, empty hole.
"There's all kinds of rumors that they've skipped town. The owner might be in Costa Rica," Anthony Broeren, Annmarie's husband, told WPTV.
Authorities in both Martin and St. Lucie counties are now investigating after receiving numerous complaints from customers like the Ferreiras and Broerens.
WPTV left messages for both of the owners. No one has returned our calls.
When our crew stopped by the office, the door was locked and the lights were off.
"This time, before we hand out any more money, we have to really make sure that they're legit before we use them," Annmarie Broeren said.
City and court records show 23 open permits to build pools in Port St. Lucie. Some of those have been open since last July.
There are 11 open projects in Martin County, some dating back to August of last year.
One of the owners is also tied to a company called Florida Lifestyle Pools, according to his license.
Officials with the city of Port St. Lucie said they've received complaints about that company as well.
They warn consumers to do their research before giving any company money upfront.