SEYMOUR, Tenn. (WATE) – Another family has been scammed by a pool installer. He has their money, but they have no pool.
The installer has a history with police in Florida. On Monday, he was slapped with a civil lawsuit in Jefferson County where he started a pool then quit. Now he could face a criminal charge in Sevier County. The couple who hired the man had no idea their dealings wound end so badly.
Tyler Hitt and his family looked forward to swimming in a backyard pool this summer. There is no pool in his backyard. Yet a copy of Hitt’s deposit shows on July 8, he paid $17,000 in cash to Lucas Hornstein, then of Smoky Mountain Pool and Spa.
Hornstein had been the East Tennessee dealer and installer for Barrier Reef fiberglass pools.
“He came over and we met with him. He wanted either cash or a cashier’s check. So I called Barrier Reef pools to verify if that was the way I should pay him. They said absolutely, that’s fine,” said Tyler Hitt.
In text messages, Hornstein wrote once the pool was delivered, it would about 10 days to complete the entire job.
Melissa Hitt says the family was excited to have a pool by sometime in August, but all they have is a big hole in their wallet.
“He came and got the money and we have not seen him since,” said Tyler Hitt.
Aware of the couple’s frustration, Hornstein sent a text on July 27 in which he proposed repaying the Hitts within 60 days and said he wanted to avoid court.
Tracee Fitzpatrick in Jefferson County said Hornstein started to install her pool in late June but quit halfway through the job after he had collected more than $16,000, two-thirds of the total cost.
In their brochure, Barrier Reef includes a disclaimer that says they’re not responsible for actions by their dealers. In response to WATE 6 On Your Side’s inquiry about Fitzpatrick’s unfinished pool, the company 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.
Hornstein has since changed his business name from Smoky Mountain Pools to Sunny Pools.
Within the last two weeks, Fitzpatrick said Barrier Reef has assisted in getting her pool finished. She said the work that Hornstein did was so bad that the pool has to be removed. Fitzpatrick is suing the installer for breach of contract.
Hornstein was arrested in Southwest Florida a few years ago, and Barrier Reef apparently didn’t know about it. The Hitts are disappointed that Barrier Reef didn’t do a background check on their dealer. The company told WATE 6 On Your Side Hornstein’s order was cancelled. He never sent the them the money.
“It’s theft. It’s contractor theft,” said Tyler Hitt.
Since he’s done no work, Hornstein could face a felony theft charge if the family’s money is not returned. The law is fairly new. If a contractor accepts money, yet does no work or the work stops, felony charges could be filed.
In court in Jefferson County on Monday, Fitzpatrick won a $17,500 lawsuit against Hornstein, who did not show up for the hearing.
Barrier Reef said it did nothing wrong, received no money from Hornstein, and was not party to any agreement between Tyler Hitt and Hornstein.