An Indian River County husband and wife face several felony charges after deputies said they stole $2 million from customers in a pool contracting scheme that began in 2019. The pair took money for pools they never built or completed, authorities said.
The multi-county case was investigated by Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney General’s Office.
“We just want to thank them for stepping in and assisting the victims of Indian River County,” Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers said in a statement Wednesday. Authorities said more than 100 people across six counties – including Indian River, Brevard, St. Lucie, Martin, Okeechobee and Palm Beach – fell victim to the scam.
The owner and an employee of Amore Pools, Inc., – Chrystal Maria Washburn and Brian Edward Washburn – were both arrested Tuesday at their home. Law enforcement officials announced the arrests of the Washburns in a joint news conference held Wednesday at the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office following a months-long investigation.
Officers said the Washburns forged documents in order to get a contractor’s license for pools and spas. Then, the couple advertised cheaper, faster online service, including Facebook advertisements, officials said.
Authorities said the actions by the Washburns were “calculated and intentional.”
Chrystal Washburn, 39, of the 8300 block of 99th Court, Vero Beach, was booked on a variety of charges including false information for a contractor’s license, unlicensed contractor, scheme to defraud, seven counts of identity theft, four counts of money laundering and insurance fraud.
Brian Washburn, 34, of the 200 block of Columbus Street, Sebastian, was booked on a variety of charges including four counts of money laundering, organized scheme to defraud, false information on application for contractor’s license, unlicensed contractor, insurance fraud and seven counts of identity theft.
Chrystal Washburn was held Wednesday at the county jail on $1,275,000 bond. Brian Washburn was held without bond.
Authorities said various government and law enforcement agencies received complaints for more than a year from homeowners regarding Amore Pools, based in St. Lucie County. Law enforcement said customers paid tens of thousands of dollars to the contractor, but never received a completed pool.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers led the investigation – dubbed “Operation That’s Amore” – into the complaints.
“In some cases, projects were abandoned before work was started,” law enforcement officials said. “But other times the Washburns dug large holes in the victims’ backyards with dangerous debris piles around the project site.”
The Washburns both have arraignments at 8:45 a.m. Nov. 29, court records show. Any residents who think they might have been a victim of Amore Pools should contact the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at 800-226-8521 or 772-216-0301.
Photos provided by Indian River County Sheriff’s Office