Attorney General Ellison sues pool contractor for defrauding Minnesota homeowners
Alleges pool contractor lied about his experience, availability, progress, and refunds in order to take tens of thousands of dollars from victims
August 12, 2022 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that he has filed a lawsuit in Scott County District Court against pool contractor Charlie Workman and his company, MN Crete Pools, LLC, alleging that they have engaged in deceptive and fraudulent practices in marketing and selling in-ground pool construction and equipment that he and his company have not delivered. The defendants’ alleged fraud and deception are currently known to have cost Minnesota homeowners, particularly in the suburban metro area, tens of thousands of dollars each.
“Part of my job as Attorney General is to protect Minnesotans from fraud and scams, and this is a shameful scam that has hurt a lot of Minnesota families,” Attorney General Ellison said. “I’m suing Mr. Workman and his company because they’ve taken advantage of Minnesotans who worked hard and saved up money just so they could provide a pool for their families to enjoy. But every step of the way, Mr. Workman and his company lied to people to get more money faster from the families he took advantage of, and to get out of doing the work he promised them. I’m taking him to court to stop him and get some justice for these consumers.”
Investigation and allegations
An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office revealed that since Mr. Workman started MN Crete Pools in 2021, he has falsely represented his experience as a pool builder. Because most pool contractors are currently booked out months or years, he and his company got business by falsely telling consumers that they had one immediate opening left for the season. Mr. Workman also used other high-pressure sales tactics, like promising discounts if consumers signed a contract right away — offering, for example, thousands of dollars off their final payment, free diving boards, free landscaping, or free chemical treatments for a year. But the discounts never materialized because Mr. Workman and his company never finished the projects.
The contracts consumers signed with MN Crete Pools required them to make payments at certain benchmarks in the project. For example, many consumers were required to pay 25% of the total price down, 25% when the defendants ordered their pool equipment, 25% when defendants began excavation, and 25% when project was completed. To induce consumers to pay as much as possible, Mr. Workman would pressure consumers to sign contracts right away for the first payment and misrepresent that they had ordered the pool’s equipment for the second payment. In many cases, Mr. Workman and his company just took the first two payments and disappeared. In some cases, they showed up to consumers’ homes with an excavator for the third payment, then simply removed the excavator as soon as the consumer made the third payment. In a few cases, defendants performed limited excavation — or even poured the pool’s concrete foundation — before disappearing and never returning.
When consumers contacted the defendants about the lack of progress on their project, Mr. Workman offered all kinds of false excuses: among them, that his employees were sick, he had filed a permit incorrectly, or his equipment had mechanical issues. Mr. Workman even acknowledged to a few consumers that he had not lived up to his end of the contract and promised to refund the money, but never did. In the end, the defendants scammed tens of thousands of dollars out of many Minnesota families.
The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Workman and his company violated numerous Minnesota consumer protection laws. Attorney General Ellison is seeking restitution for consumers, an injunction prohibiting the defendants from engaging further in this fraudulent scheme, civil penalties, and recovery of the State’s costs and fees.
“I want to thank every consumer who spoke up and complained to my office,” Attorney General Ellison concluded. “If you’ve been scammed by a contractor, don’t feel ashamed and don’t stay silent. Contact my office instead. We may be able to help you personally, and you will help us help many other Minnesotans like you.”
Tips for consumers
Attorney General Ellison encourages Minnesota homeowners and consumers who are interested in expensive construction projects like in-ground pools to check online for information about specific companies, get information from sellers in writing, and carefully review all documents before signing. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s webpage “Tips for Hiring a Contractor” offers comprehensive tips to consumers who are considering hiring a contractor.
The Attorney General’s Office’s publication “How to Spot a Scam” provides Minnesotans with the common characteristics of scams to look out for, several of which have been prevalent in these defendants’ high-pressure sales tactics.
Attorney General Ellison urges Minnesota consumers to report their concerns with a contractor by submitting a complaint online or by calling the Attorney General’s Office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro area), (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota), or (800) 627-3529 (Minnesota Relay).