Spring – Our KPRC 2 Investigates team is always working to find answers to your problems. One of the most common complaints we receive on our reporting line is from people who have issues with the contractors they hire to work on their home. Investigator Bill Spencer is known to track down some of these contractors.
Now he’s going after a man accused of taking money from families in the Spring and Conroe area without completing the job. Plus, our team of investigators will tell you three things you should do before hiring contractors for your home.
Patrick Brice and his wife Tenille have done their homework. They researched contractors before hiring one to build a swimming pool. But they still ended up losing tens of thousands of dollars. They have a hard word and saved for their house in the spring and have always been very proud of it. Last April, they decided to put the finishing touches on their dream home by adding an in-ground fiberglass pool. Total cost: $45,900.
A backyard paradise, just in time to celebrate their son’s induction into the United States Navy.
“I told him our son was leaving for the Navy and we wanted him before the 4th of July. We were going to have a big party,” said Tenille Nosworthy-Brice.
“It was a really big deal, probably other than the house, it was the biggest purchase we’ve ever made,” Brice said.
The entrepreneur kept asking for more money
After interviewing three different pool contractors, the Brices decided to hire Darren Mathew Cook, owner of Epic Fiberglass Pools.
“We went with Darren because he was actually the cheapest of the three, lesson learned you never go with the lowest estimate right?” says Bruce.
His estimate was about $10,000 cheaper than the others. Despite the lower price, Tenille and Patrick say Cook demanded a down payment of $22,900, nearly half the cost of the job. They say he then demanded another $11,000 the first day workers dug a huge hole.
“We paid him just over $34,000,000 in total,” Brice said.
Jada England, a single mother from Conroe, says she paid Darren Cook $50,000 for this fiberglass pool which was to be a Christmas present for her two children. More than a year later, she is paying tens of thousands of dollars more for other contractors to complete the job.
“The pool I paid for is not the pool I got,” England said. “The real shell is not level, it has a lot of damage. So basically I had to pay everything twice, because I paid it, then I paid someone other.
Pool contractor arrested and charged with criminal theft
Now, after months of investigation, Cook has been formally charged with 2nd degree larceny, for defrauding several families out of more than $150,000.
“He’s basically preying on vulnerable residents here,” said Harris County District 4 Constable Mark Herman. “He starts the work, leaves a big hole in their backyard and tries to disappear.”
The alleged victims told investigators that Cook “presented himself as a professional, a devoted father and a devoted Christian.”
Investigators believe there may be other people who hired Cook and left with unfinished business.
Herman says Darren Cook’s next court appearance will be next month and he expects more cases to be filed by then.
You can contact investigators by calling (281) 376-3472 or going online.
3 steps to follow before hiring a swimming pool contractor
Epic Fiberglass Pools received an F rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Consumer watchdog Leah Napoliello (with the Better Business Bureau) has three steps you need to take to prevent this from happening to you.
Before hiring someone, check to see if the company has been rated by the Better Business Bureau.
Ask for 4 other clients the company has done work for, then call or visit those clients for feedback.
Follow the “rule of thirds” when it comes to payment.
“So you pay the first third up front, before the initial work is done,” says Leah Napoliello, Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas. “Another 3rd halfway through if you’re still happy with everything, then the final third only when and after you’ve fully reviewed the work and you’re happy and satisfied with everything.”
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