As the woman accused of a long-term pool contracting scheme seeks a bail reduction, homeowners who say they lost money in the scam are asking the public for help.
On Oct. 6, Amore’ Pools owner Chrystal Washburn, 39, was charged with 16 crimes, including seven counts of identity fraud, four counts of money laundering, insurance fraud, contracting without a license, false statement of compliance and scheme to defraud.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said she and her husband, Brian Washburn, concocted a scheme to defraud homeowners across the Treasure Coast and in three other counties by taking large deposits to build in-ground residential swimming pools, but never completed the projects. Amore’ had an office in St. Lucie County, while the couple lives in Indian River County.
Chrystal Washburn has been at the Indian River County Jail in lieu of $1.2 million bail since she was charged. Her husband was charged with the same crimes but because of probation violations, he has been held at the jail without bail.
Chrystal Wasburn’s attorneys presented their request for bail reduction to Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn on Nov. 30. There’s no indication when Vaughn will decide on the motion, said attorney Roger Azcona.
State prosecutors are refuting the request on a couple of points, including their concern she would be a flight risk with “overwhelming” incentive to flee Indian River County.
“Defendant has limited ties to the community, having only moved here in 2014,” Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Jonathan Bridges wrote in the state’s response to the motion. “Many of those ties to the community… are based on fraud.”
Washburn’s financial status is too murky to justify a bail reduction, Bridges said. There’s a $13,000 car sale she made before her arrest for which authorities said they have not been able to find the cash. Washburn filed for indigency at one point, but then retained Azcona of Okeechobee County.
“If Defendant’s affidavit of indigency was truthful…. the court may draw the reasonable conclusion someone else is helping Defendant pay for these expenses,” Bridges wrote.
In the past few years, about 150 homeowners in six counties signed contracts with Amore’ Pools, which required a 25% deposit, FDLE agents said. The overwhelming majority of pools never were completed by Amore’.
Some of the property owners were able to contract with other companies to finish the work. Others sit incomplete.
For either case, the former Amore’ customers shelled out money to the company that won’t be recouped soon. That’s why Mollie Croumie of Vero Beach, one of the former customers, has launched a GoFundMe account, titled “Victims That Refused To Give Up,” to help two families who lost at least $45,000 each in the scam.
“This is a GoFundMe for two average guys who never gave up and were the unsung heroes behind the arrests,” Croumrie said on the account page. “What you don’t know from the headlines is that most of the 33 combined felonies this criminal couple faces can be traced back to intel that two relentless victims uncovered and provided.”
Lamaur Stancil is the Treasure Coast regional economy reporter covering business and industries, including retail, tourism and hospitality. Contact him at 321-987-7179 or [email protected].