A Fernandina Beach family is sharing a story of how their dream pool turned into a nightmare. They hired a Jacksonville company called Florida Bonded Pools to build it and claim they spent thousands of dollars and their pool was never finished.
Florida Bonded Pools was owned and operated by a family for more than 50 years until it was sold to Marvin Himel in 2015. Before buying the company, Himel owned and operated another business, Agora Pools.
The Clark family says they just retired and hired Himel to build a pool. Susan Clark says she paid Himel more than $50,000 for the job, but he never finished her pool.
"This was our retirement nest egg, it's kind of sad," Clark said.
"I interviewed three pool companies before I hired them, they were the best value, the nicest staff, the most professional and they had the best reputation," Clark said.
The family says they were billed every time contractors came out and did work. Clark says she was told the pool would be finished in about six weeks, but that turned into months. Still, she kept making payments to Himel.
"He is genuine, looks you straight in the eye, is apologetic when he makes a mistake, he did all the right things," Clark said about Himel.
She says she had no reason not to believe him.
"We found out three days after the seventh payment that Marvin was a scam artist," Clark said.
She says when she called the company to ask when her pool would be finished they informed her Himel had left the company and a half-finished pool. Himel was arrested on fraud charges June 18.
But Clark still had to find someone else and pay them to finish the pool.
“We paid another $22,000 and we also have another $15,000 worth of liens on our property, so altogether it’s come to $95,000," Clark said.
Her life savings were poured into her pool, but she says she’s ready to move on and help spread the word so others don’t fall victim.
"When this is all done we are going to make sure that Marvin Himel doesn't hurt anyone else," Clark said.
Florida Bonded Pools is now out of business, but the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says one of the first things you should do is a simple Google search of the company you’re trying to hire. They also say to never pay a contractor in advance and to check with the BBB about any complaints filed against the company you’re looking into.