JEFFERSON CITY (WATE) – A woman in Jefferson City said no to a pool contractor who demanded he be paid in full before the job was completed. It turned out it was a good thing she held her ground.
The installer has a history with police in southwestern Florida. Tracee Fitzpatrick thought she had done her homework when she purchased a fiberglass pool earlier this summer. She had no idea what would happen over the following six weeks.
Fitzpatrick should be swimming in her new pool by now. In late June, the backyard to Fitzpatrick’s home was excavated and a big hole dug as the 11-by-21 foot pool was lowered into place. It’s a fiberglass pool, the Opal model, sold by Barrier Reef out of South Carolina. A local dealer set it up.
“He wanted a $7,500 deposit before he started anything, which we did,” she said.
Fitzpatrick said the contract then called for another $8,250, which she paid immediately after the pool was delivered and the set up started.
Lucas Hornstein, a dealer for Barrier Reef, is a local pool contractor. Fitzpatrick said Hornstein told her the job would take a maximum of 10 days if the weather was good. It wasn’t long after the pumps were installed, the electrical outlets and filters hooked up, and lines from the pool set up when Luke Hornstein demanded his final draw – the payment in full.
“I was only holding back $8,500. I was scared to give him anymore. I demanded, ‘You need to finish the pool.’ That’s the way it’s listed on the closeout, the final payment. It didn’t call for another draw,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick demanded that Hornstein honor the contract. Instead, he quit.
Fitzpatrick googled his name and came up with this police mug shot of Lucas Hornstein following his arrest in Florida. Work on the pool stopped weeks ago. Fitzpatrick exchanged several messages with Hornstein that contained graphic content.
A few weeks ago, electrical subcontractors showed up wanting $2,000.
“Then I’m met with people at my door, such as the electrical that was done. He wrote a bad check to the electrical company,” she said.
A disclaimer by the pool company says they’re not responsible for the actions of their dealers.
“I think its their responsibility to make sure they’re bonded, insured and do not have a criminal record,” said Fitzpatrick.
Hornstein was not immediately available on the phone, so WATE 6 On Your Side left a message. He later returned it with another message: “This is Lucas Hornstein. Got your message about Mrs. Fitzpatrick. I don’t have any ill feelings towards her or the decisions she made. I don’t understand really what had happened. I wouldn’t mind trying to help finish the job. I’d be more than happy to speak with you.”
Since that call, Hornstein has not returned any additional calls nor spoken with Fitzpatrick. However, he’s changed his business name from Smoky Mountain Pools to Sunny Pools and his claims shows he’s still a dealer with Barrier Reef pools.
The South Carolina company said “it is not common for its dealers to ask for payment in full until the pool is finished.” While the company said it “does not do police background checks on its potential dealers, Hornstein’s bank and work references were satisfactory.”
Barrier Reef said it “prides itself in offering a quality product though its dealer base” and has “terminated Mr. Hornstein as an approved dealer” for the company.
Now, there’s a new issue at Fitzpatrick’s home. Erosion from recent rain has caused the pool to shift.
“You can see the original dig hole that was too large for the pool. And now when my pool was originally level, it has now sunk about 2 and a half inches,” she said.
The pool may have to be removed. Fitzpatrick said Barrier Reef is assisting her but finishing the job will take time.
“I won’t have a pool until October,” she said.
Barrier Reef said it will do everything possible to see that Fitzpatrick is completely satisfied with her pool. She has also filed a civil suit against Hornstein, which is expected to be heard in court later this month.