James Staten, the proprietor of Olympus Pools in Florida, has come under intense scrutiny, facing allegations of misappropriating customer funds amounting to $1.5 million. These funds, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), were allegedly used for personal expenses including purchasing Super Bowl tickets and embarking on luxury vacations.
On Monday, at a press conference organized by the FDLE, it was disclosed that Staten was charged with 35 felony counts. These include one count each of aggravated white-collar crime and organized scheme to defraud. Additionally, he faces 20 counts of grand theft, eight counts of misapplication of construction funds, and five counts of contractor fraud.
The chain of complaints started rolling in 2021. Numerous homeowners from the Tampa Bay area lodged their grievances about their dealings with Staten and Olympus Pools. In response to the growing number of complaints, the FDLE, in collaboration with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, initiated a criminal investigation into both Staten and Olympus Pools. From the inquiry, special agent Mark Brutnell reported that they identified 140 customers who had been potential victims of Staten’s activities.
Out of these identified victims, a further detailed examination was conducted on 31 cases. According to Brutnell, these specific cases illustrated a consistent pattern, indicating a potential fraudulent scheme. He stated, “We were able to determine that Staten fraudulently utilized in excess of $1.5 million from his victims for his personal everyday life since 2020.”
Brutnell continued by outlining the typical experience of the affected customers. After their initial meeting with Olympus Pools sales representatives and once the design process began, customers were required to deposit a 10% down payment to initiate the construction of their pools. Interestingly, customers who paid in full were promised discounts and a faster construction process.
However, many customers reportedly experienced prolonged periods of inactivity and limited communication from the company. When they were finally contacted, it was often to request additional funds.
Unfortunately, for many of these homeowners, their pool projects remained incomplete. Despite numerous attempts by the customers to reach out to Staten, including some hiring attorneys, their efforts went unanswered.
Through a series of subpoenas on various business and personal bank accounts linked to Staten, it was revealed that significant amounts of money were transferred from the company’s business accounts to Staten’s personal accounts.
These funds, Brutnell elaborated, supported an extravagant lifestyle that included pricey vacations, luxury items, high-end dining experiences, and other high-ticket expenses. In some instances, Staten’s monthly expenditures ranged between $50,000 to $70,000.
To provide an idea of the extent of his purported personal spending, it was shared that Staten had taken his employees and their families on all-inclusive trips to destinations like Key West, Jamaica, New Orleans, and Las Vegas. He also reportedly spent $53,000 on Super Bowl tickets in 2021 when Tampa hosted the event.
As a consequence of these findings, Attorney General Ashley Moody announced the dissolution of Olympus Pools on July 6. In addition, a lifetime ban was imposed, prohibiting the company from operating in the state of Florida.
In her statement, Moody expressed her dismay, especially given the season, “We are in the thick of summer when many Floridians want to enjoy their pools with friends and family.”
While ordered to make restitution payments to the affected customers, Staten filed for personal bankruptcy due to his inability to meet these financial obligations.
Staten’s legal representation, Rick Escobar, emphasized that Staten maintains his innocence. He remarked that business bankruptcy doesn’t equate to a crime. As of the latest updates, Staten voluntarily turned himself into the Pasco County Jail.