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 tip line is from people who have issues with contractors they hire to work on their homes. Investigator Bill Spencer is known for tracking 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 finishing the work. Plus, our Investigates team will explain three things you should do before hiring any contractors for your home.
Patrick Brice and his wife Tenille did their homework. They researched contractors before finally hiring one to build a pool. But they still ended up losing tens of thousands of dollars. They’ve word hard and saved for their home in Spring and have always taken great pride in it. Last April, they decided to put the final touch 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 it by July 4th. We were going to have a big party,” said Tenille Nosworthy-Brice.
“It was a very big deal, probably other than the house, this was the biggest purchase we’ve ever made,” said Brice.
Contractor kept asking for more money
After interviewing three different pool contractors, the Brice’s 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 bottom estimate, right?” said Brice.
His estimate was about $10,000 cheaper than the rest. Despite the lower price, Tenille and Patrick say Cook demanded a $22,900 down payment, almost half the cost of the job. They say he then demanded another $11,000 on the first day workers dug a huge hole.
“We paid him a little over $34,000 thousand dollars altogether,” said Brice.
Jada England, a single mom from Conroe, says she paid Darren Cook $50,000 dollars for this fiberglass pool that was to be a Christmas present for her two children. More than a year later, she is paying tens of thousands of dollars more to have other contractors complete the job.
“The pool I paid for is not the pool that I got,” said England. “The actual shell is not level, it has a lot of damage to it. So basically, I had to pay for everything twice, cause I paid him and then I paid someone else.”
Pool contractor arrested and charged with felony theft
Now, after months of investigation, Cook has been officially charged with 2nd degree felony theft, for defrauding multiple families out of more than $150,000.
“He basically preys on vulnerable residents out here,” said Constable Mark Herman, Harris County Precinct 4. “He starts the work, leaves a big hole in their back yard and tries to vanish.”
Alleged victims told investigators that Cook “presented himself as a professional and a dedicated father and devoted Christian.”
Investigators believe there may be other people who hired Cook and left with unfinished work.
Herman says Darren Cook’s next court appearance takes place next month and he expects more cases will be filed by that time.
You can contact investigators by calling (281) 376-3472 or by going online.
3 steps to take before hiring a pool contractor
Epic Fiberglass Pools has been given an F-rating by the Better Business Bureau.
Consumer watchdog Leah Napoliello (with the Better Business Bureau) has three steps you need to take to keep this from happening to you.
- Before hiring anyone check to see if the company has been rated by the Better Business Bureau.
- Ask for 4 other customers the company has done work for, then call or visit those customers for feed back.
- Follow “the rule of thirds” when it comes to payment.
“So you pay the initial third up front, before initial work to be done,” explains Leah Napoliello, Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas. “Another 3rd at the midway point if you’re still satisfied with everything and then the final third only when and after you’ve totally review the work and are happy and satisfied with everything.”