Man uses stranger's identity to buy $14K hot tub, police say

By Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter

HOUSTON - A pool and spa company is offering a $1,000 reward after someone stole a $14,000 hot tub. The catch is that the suspected thief didn’t physically steal the tub. The company delivered it to him after he was approved for a loan, using someone else’s identity.

When the company tried to retrieve the hot tub from the northeast Houston home, the house was empty and the tub was gone.

Olympics Pools & Spas, located at 8400 Westglen Drive in Houston, is a family-run business. On April 28, David Paul Snelling Jr. was in the store when a man wearing a three-piece suit, a hat with a feather in it, a tie and a pocket square walked in.

“He looked at the large hot tub at the front door and said he wanted a big tub for a lot of people but he wanted a radio,” said Snelling Jr. “He said, 'That’s the one I want. Can I buy this today?' and I said, 'Sure. Absolutely.'”

Snelling Jr. said the man filled out the paperwork for financing, Snelling Jr. submitted it online and the man was good to go.

“It came back that he was approved for that full amount, which was a pretty good amount, so I went ahead and wrote him up and he told me that it was his wife’s birthday on Wednesday so he needed to rush the delivery if we could,” said Snelling Jr. “We were backed up 10 days easily on delivery so we told him, ‘I don’t know if we can make this happen or not.’ He said, ‘Please, please, please, this will just make her birthday great,' so we jumped through hoops to make the deal and my little brother arranged for it to happen.”

Snelling Jr.'s brother, who is also named David, then got in contact with the man.

“On the day we scheduled, which was the following Wednesday, between the transaction and the delivery, I had numerous conversations with this guy,” said David, who is the vice president of Olympic Pools and Spas.

He said the man was extremely responsive, texted back and forth and was no different than any other customer.

“I talked to him when the guys were on the way and he’s telling me the decking is not finished yet. His father-in-law has not completed the task. The electrical is almost done, but not quite, and asked if we could go ahead and slip it in the garage for now and his crew will move it to the backyard,” said David.

That’s what they did. The workers put it in the garage, something they’ve done in the past with other customers.

A week later, Snelling Jr. receives a disturbing phone call from the bank.

“The lender called about a week later and said the person we sold the hot tub to was disputing the charges, said he didn’t open the account, didn’t want a hot tub, didn’t buy a hot tub and he didn’t know anything about this and, of course, our jaws hit the ground and we’re, like, 'You’re kidding. We already delivered that tub,'” said Snelling Jr.

They looked back at security footage,saw the man shuffling through several credit cards and came to believe he had stolen someone else’s identity. But, that wasn’t all.

“I jumped in my truck and started heading to that house. I brought one of the guys with me. On the way, we found a constable, thought we better have some protection,” said David.

He said no one answered the door at the northeast Houston home. There was a garage door clicker next to the door, so they pressed it and opened the garage. The hot tub was gone.

“It was vacant. The door was open to walk into the house. They walked into a totally empty house with the utilities running. It was almost like a staging location,” said David. “Not in all of our years have we heard of this happening and certainly not to us, not to something of this size. They weigh about 1,000 pounds, so they’re not the easiest thing to steal or move. It takes a crew and special equipment to get it done.”

Now, the company is offering a $1,000 reward and has posted the man’s picture along with a picture of his red Chevrolet Suburban.

“I want to get people’s attention, happy to pay the $1,000 reward if they can lead us to the conviction of this fella. I would like to get my hot tub back,” said David.

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