NewsPalm Beach County


Palm Springs pool contractor sentenced to 18 years in prison after committing $1 million in fraud

Ricardo Villarroel Duerto defrauded nearly 100 Florida homeowners including in Palm Beach County
Ricardo Villarroel Duerto of Palm Springs was arrested in 2021.
Posted at 2:23 PM, Jun 20, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A pool builder that defrauded Florida homeowners across the state, including residents in Palm Beach County, is headed to prison, Attorney General Ashley Moody announced Thursday.

WPTV reported in 2021 that Ricardo Villarroel Duerto of Palm Springs was arrested and charged with racketeering after several homeowners said he took money to build backyard swimming pools and failed to finish the job.

Moody said the Office of Statewide Prosecution secured an 18-year prison sentence for Villarroel after he defrauded nearly 100 Florida homeowners.

Duerto, the owner of Villa Pavers and Pools, along with salespersons and a licensed general contractor, defrauded homeowners of more than $1 million.

WPTV Investigates

Pool 'contractor' accused of defrauding customers of $1M

Dave Bohman
4:52 PM, Oct 28, 2021

Judge William S. Orth sentenced Villarroel on charges of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering.

"Building a pool is an expensive undertaking and some families may save for years to build their dream pool. This shady contractor took advantage of nearly 100 Florida homeowners, including seniors, trying to buy a pool—causing more than $1 million in losses," Moody said. "Thanks to our Statewide Prosecutors, this contractor will serve a lengthy prison sentence for ripping off Floridians."

Moody said Villarroel targeted victims in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Collier, Hendry, Hillsborough, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas and Seminole counties.

State investigators said Villarroel promoted low overall prices on pools — compared to market value — as a hook to gain business from eventual victims yet pocketed significant deposits without following through on installation.

State law enforcement officials said they received complaints claiming Villa Pavers and Pools collected about 40% of the contracted price for the installation of pools to some of the victims yet did not complete the job.

Unfinished pool

WPTV Investigates

3 pool builders accused of taking $11M, never completing job

Dave Bohman
6:00 PM, Nov 19, 2021

Prosecutors said some of the installations resulted in giant holes in the victims' backyards, while other projects never started after Villarroel took the deposit by simply cutting off communication with a victim.

Moody also said that Villarroel teamed with licensed general contractor Luis Alvarez of Conquer Builders, who aided and abetted Villa Pavers and Pools to defraud homeowners throughout the state.

"Alvarez sold the use of his general contractor license to Villa Pavers and Pools, an unlicensed contractor company, to present a contractor license to homeowners and obtain building permits," Moody's office said in a news release.

According to investigators, Villarroel used the license repeatedly and hired two salespeople, Michael Borrego Fernandez and Laura Ballester Alpizar, gaining contract after contract to supercharge the scheme and acquire more business, leading to the excess in cash.

State officials said Alvarez, Borrego and Ballester are all in custody facing the same charges as Villarroel.

Moody said Alvarez pleaded guilty to both charges with a sentence pending. Borrego and Ballester are out on bond.

Consumer lawyers have told WPTV that they recommend residents do their homework before entering in a deal with a pool contractor and look up the company's Better Business Bureau ratings.