NASHVILLE, Tenn.- State regulators have fined a pool company over $456,000 after they were exposed by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
The investigation found Premier Pools took hundreds of thousands of dollars from homeowners across Middle Tennessee, but never finished, or in some cases, even started building their pools.
At a formal hearing on Wednesday the state Contractors Board said it wanted to make sure Premier Pools never does business in Tennessee again.
Premier Pools claimed to be "The Pool People...People Trust." But this summer, customers told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, Premier Pools couldn't be trusted to get the job done.
David Dudzinski said, "They just give you excuse after excuse."
Another customer, Wendy Seem, explained, "We have a big, huge mess in our backyard and nothing to show for it really for the money we put down."
And at a formal hearing conducted by the state Contractors Board, staff attorney Bruce Poag didn't hold back either.
"All they (Premier Pools) cared about was the money they were getting and they were going to get as much as they possibly could be doing as little work as they possibly could," Poag told the Board. He went on to say that Premier Pools didn't care about its customers, its subcontractors, or even following the Board's rules.
"'To hell with it.' That's their business model. That's their business philosophy," Poag added.
Premier Pools' owner Anna Shanks did not show up for the hearing. In her place, the state set a framed picture of her, while the Board's director described how she'd received "more than 16 complaints" from unhappy customers, including that NewsChannel 5 Investigates talked with several months ago.
David Dudzinski was one of them.
"The entire pool has to be dug up and all of the plumbing needs to be redone," he said.
Customers say Premier Pools did shoddy work, damaged their property, and abandoned the projects before their pools were done.
Brentwood homeowner Chad Berger testified at the hearing that he paid more than $34,000 for a pool that was supposed to be finished in May and still isn't done.
"We said, 'Well, maybe, we can have a 4th of July party.' That came and went and we were nowhere near completion. Then, by the end of the summer, we still never got a pool," Berger explained.
The Board found Premier Pools guilty of a dozen violations, including professional misconduct, incompetence, dishonest dealings, fraud by accepting payment for subcontractors, but not paying them, bad faith dealings with their customers, breach of contract, unreasonable delays.
Board members also expressed concern that while Anna Shanks claimed to be the sole owner of Premier Pools, as NewsChannel 5 Investigates first reported, Shanks' husband, Ed, and stepson, Tommy Patterson, were heavily involved in running the business and all three are convicted felons.
The Board voted unanimously to revoke Premier Pools' license and approved a whopping $456,000 fine.
"Nearly half a million is, I think, right on the money. It's not too much," said Sam Johnson, another Premier Pools' customer, after the hearing.
The company went out of business in September and filed for bankruptcy soon after. So, it's unlikely it'll ever pay the fine. But, the Board hopes it will at least serve as a deterrent.
"It'll send a message to other contractors across the state. Don't do this," Board chair Keith Whittington said hopefully.
In addition to the 456-thousand dollars...Premier Pools was also ordered to pay the costs of today's hearing and the state's investigation. The Board also asked its director to watch out for any companies that Anna Shanks, Ed Shanks or Tommy Patterson might be involved with in the future.
The Board does not have the authority to pursue criminal charges. But it did ask its attorney to contact the district attorney about filing fraud charges in this case.