Embattled pool company owner arrested over co-mingling funds

A pool company owner who has angered clients from Decatur to North Fulton has been arrested. And, he’s now fending off lawsuits. All of this is connected to his failing pool business. 

Homeowners are peppering police departments metro-wide with complaints about Aqua Blue Pools and its owner Rick McDermott. Many are similar: They've paid hefty amounts of money for pools left unfinished. But too often they're hearing from police that these cases are civil, not criminal. That was until one homeowner got the word that this is theft.

Pool man Rick McDermott says his business is going under.

"I'm in the process of filing bankruptcy," he told the FOX 5 I-Team in early May. 

But, he's still swimming in trouble with his now-shuttered Aqua Blue Pools company. 

"He took $80,000 of our money," Sharon McCleskey said. Others chimed in with similar contract woes. 

A pool company owner shuts down his business after customers claim unfinished work. He's now been arrested. 

We met McDermott on May 2 to talk about the group's allegations that most of them paid their contracts in full, but all claim to have swimming pools left partially completed. He told us his business couldn’t survive the pandemic and its economic pressures.  

"No, it's just an unfortunate situation," he said. "Just ran out of money."

Nothing more.

"As far as I know there should be no criminal activity whatsoever," he told us. 

Well, 10 days after we chatted with him a warrant was issued for his arrest. Richard J. McDermott was charged with conversion of payments for real property improvements.

According to the arrest warrant, McDermott received $12,000 from a client for finishing touches on a pool project but used the money instead "to fund other projects." Texts between McDermott and the client read, "Your money went into the aqua blue acct and went to jobs".

If true, that's against the law.

Tuff Yen is another unhappy client. His $70,000 contract with Aqua Blue Pools goes back to November 2020. He wanted it ready for visiting family in the following summer - that's seven months out.

"That was the fantasy at that time that I had," Yen said.

Tuff Yen

But the reality was different. According to his lawsuit, Yen filed against Rick McDermott for "fraud, misrepresentation, and deceit." It took two years from the signing of the original contract to bringing in another company to finish the job. 

"I think that total was about $30,000 to $35,000," Yen recalled about the price tag for the other company.

Look at this timeline from the suit. The contract was signed on November 2020. The dig didn't start until August 2021. But fast-forward six months later - Feb. 2022 - the pool, according to the lawsuit, still was not completed.

Pressure was building on Tuff Yen because he wanted to put his home on the market in the spring of that year. Rates were low, asking prices high. But that didn't happen. By May 1, 2022, his lawsuit says that Rick McDermott stopped showing up.

"I scrambled to find another contractor to come in," he said, "Which (can) take another two months to get this thing done." 

Mr. McDermott said, "Tuff Yen is a different situation altogether."

He said his pandemic-related business woes had nothing to do with this soured deal.

"That was a dispute between me and him outside of all of this."

Tuff Yen is suing him for $106,000. In a legal response, McDermott denies most of the allegations. And that bankruptcy? The Fox 5 I-Team has reached out to his attorney on several occasions to find out when this will be filed. But, McDermott's attorney has not returned our calls.

"I'm always very empathetic of people who does, you know, hard work, labor work," Yen pointed out. "But when there's a pattern of lying going on and twist of the facts, I insult my intelligence by being kind to someone."

The Yens moved an hour north of Decatur, and had to make weekly regular trips back to the old house to keep an eye on the pool situation. They had to set up cameras and an alarm system out of fear neighborhood children might wander into what was a concrete pond with construction debris. They had to pay two mortgages for months because they couldn't sell the old house until the pool was finished.  

The Yens don't expect to recover any significant losses, but they do plan to see the Aqua Blue Pools owner in court one day - even if it takes years.

"I'm not going anywhere. I don't think he should do this to other people."