State alleges pool contractor ripped off nearly $400K

A 42-year-old Altha man who claimed to have a business installing in-ground residential pools has been charged with defrauding homeowners in Franklin and Gulf counties by taking large deposits and then never completing the work.

Tracy Matthew McClain, 42, Altha, owner of Blue Water Pools, was arrested following an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted after Franklin County Sheriff’s Office asked for assistance on the case.

“More than a dozen victims faithfully saved to afford a swimming pool, some paying as much as 90 percent of the overall cost. But McClain failed to fulfill a single installation,” said FDLE Tallahassee Special Agent in Charge Mark Perez, in an Oct. 20 news release.

“I thank our FDLE agents and deputies at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office for their work on this investigation to stop this fraud,” Perez said.

The case began in June 2021 following 11 interviews with 16 victims conducted by John Turner, an investigator with the state attorney’s office. The case was turned over to FDLE after victims were identified in multiple justifications, including Franklin, Leon, and Gulf counties.

Turner, who has since retired, was assisted by Sgt. Gene Anderson, formerly with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, and now with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as well as Franklin County Lt. Baron Cortopassi and Gulf County Sgt. Jordan Brock.

A probable cause affidavit filed by FDLE Special Agent Jennifer Barineau alleged that at the time of the contracts, McClain received payment for 60 percent of the installation price, and then in many cases received a secondary payment of 30 percent, so that in some instances he secured 90 percent of the pool’s price.

Between November 2020 and March 2021, McClain entered into 14 separate contracts with 19 individuals, for a total purchase price of nearly $587,000. He then accepted more than $389,000 across 13 separate contracts, with 23 individuals suffering financial loss by McClain’s scheme, Barineau’s affidavit alleged.

“As the lack of contract fulfillment ensued, McClain would diminish or cease contact with the victims,” reads the affidavit. “As a result of (his) failure to provide work/service and goods, numerous victims were compelled to proceed with pool installations with third-party vendors, incurring additional costs beyond the original contract price.

“Additionally, some cases involved rental properties resulting in decreased rental income due to McClain’s failure to complete these pool installations,” it reads. 

The affidavit notes that as of July 18, 2022 when the affidavit was drawn up, none of the 14 contracts with McClain had been completed, nor had any of the 23 victims received a refund.

McClain was arrested in September by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, and charged with organized fraud of over $50,000, a first-degree felony generally punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.. He later was released on a $50,000 bond and has pleaded not guilty, with representation by the public defender’s office.

Law enforcement officials say there could be additional victims in Franklin and Gulf counties. 

“We appreciate the assistance of our state partners to bring people to justice like McClain, who knowingly victimize trusting citizens of Franklin County,” said Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith in a statement.

If you have information about this case or believe you may have been a victim, please contact FDLE Tallahassee at 800-342-0820. 

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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