Several North Texas families say they paid a pool company thousands of dollars to build their dream backyards and were left with unfinished projects. In some cases, consumers said the work didn’t even start.
The consumers tell NBC 5 Responds they have hit dead ends trying to get their money back.
“ONCE THEY DUG THE HOLE, THEY WERE ABLE TO GET MOST OF THE MONEY”
During the pandemic, Billy and Anny Nguyen decided to build a little oasis in their backyard in Parker.
“We're all working from home now, let's have a pool, let's hang out with the family and create new memories with our little ones,” said Billy Nguyen.
After weeks of research and interviewing companies, the Nguyens hired JDM Contracting & Development, also known as JDM Pool & Patio.
“We did a lot of due diligence. Many, many questions and they answered them all,” Nguyen said.
The Nguyens signed a contract to build a pool, pool house, driveway and a half basketball court last February.
“They just seemed like a great company, you know, honest, trustworthy people,” Anny Nguyen told NBC 5 Responds.
The Nguyens said they paid JDM $110,000 in three installments with the last two payments going out in November when excavation started.
“Once they dug the hole, they were able to get most of the money for the project,” Anny Nguyen said.
Since then, the Nguyens said work and communication with JDM stopped.
What they have now is a 16-by-36-foot hole in their backyard and they haven’t been able to get in touch with JDM for months.
“We're still making those payments to the lender and all we have to show for it is a hole and an unfinished driveway,” Billy Nguyen said.
Down the street, Kerri Heidkamp hired JDM to extend a patio, picking the company, she said, after seeing signs in neighbors’ yards.
“I figured they're here working and it's kind of a referral,” Heidkamp recalled. “I texted them and they both said, yes, we're using them."
Heidkamp showed us a copy of the check she wrote to JDM for a $3,892 deposit in December. For that, she said a worker dug a small trench and no one from JDM came back to finish.
Heidkamp eventually hired someone else, taking a nearly $4,000 loss.
“I'm not really sure what I could have done other than doing a personal background check on the man himself. What do you do?” Heidkamp told NBC 5 Responds.
“WE HAVE NOTHING AND WE'RE OUT $10,000”
Heidkamp and the Nguyens said they started comparing notes on JDM. From there, the Nguyens connected with consumers outside their neighborhood.
NBC 5 Responds spoke to six other JDM Pool and Patio clients across North Texas in the McKinney area, Saginaw, Grapevine and Grand Prairie. Three of them shared their experience on camera.
“It was just nasty what they did,” Mia McKenzie told NBC 5 Responds.
Mia McKenzie paid a deposit of just over $10,000 last August and said no one from JDM came back to start work.
“We were supposed to have a pool and our patio and everything done,” said McKenzie. “We have nothing and we're out $10,000. We're having to start all over again.”
That’s what happened to Miguel Garcia who paid $7,000 last July.
“They got the down payment or the deposit. They said they ordered the shell and that was it. Never heard from them. Never saw anybody else, actually,” Garcia told us.
Michelle Pearson, a teacher, who’d saved for years to build a pool said she paid just over $72,000 last August because JDM offered a 10% discount to pay in full up-front.
Other than coming to survey the yard, Pearson said no one from JDM started work.
“We really, really wanted to make this happen for ourselves and for our children,” Pearson said. “Now we're making a loan payment every month for a pool that's never going to be put in.”
THE COMPANY FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY PROTECTION
All the consumers we spoke to said the owners of JDM stopped returning phone calls, texts, and emails.
Court records show JDM filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in February of 2022.
NBC 5 Responds reached out to Forrest Malvaney, listed as the managing member in bankruptcy documents. We also reached out to Bryan Judd of Seguin who is listed as a manager in a 2020 business formation certificate filed with the Texas Secretary of State. We didn’t hear back.
NBC 5 Responds spoke briefly by phone with the attorney in JDM’s bankruptcy case. He told us the company had a difficult time and turned to bankruptcy laws.
“It does complicate things because you can't do anything. You can't sue them, you can't make demands on them,” explained Mark Ticer, an attorney who is not involved in this case.
Ticer said, generally, consumers have a tough time getting money back when a project is abandoned by a contractor.
While certain trades that may work on pools like electricians and plumbers answer to state licensing boards, general contractors and pool contractors are not required to get a state-level license in Texas.
Ticer said, “That's the give and take that we're just not going to require licensing. They'll say it's bureaucratic, it costs money. The problem is a lot of people get ripped off.”
RESEARCH A COMPANY'S REPUTATION, DON'T PAY IN FULL UPFRONT
Ticer said researching a company’s reputation, reading up on any pending lawsuits and how the company handles complaints is key before hiring someone.
“We need to be proactive, not reacting. When you think you've done everything you need to do, there's more to do,” Ticer said.
The Better Business Bureau said before hiring a contractor, consider how many years a company has been in business under the same name.
“Any business takes a couple of years to really get their feet under them and understand the processes and procedures and how to deliver the best service they possibly can,” Amy Rasor, BBB Fort Worth Regional Director explained. “Number of years in businesses is something to consider.”
The BBB recommends consumers ask for local references and follow up with them. Don’t pay in full upfront. Instead, stagger payments. Additionally, spell out the payment schedule in the contract along with who will work on your project.
“Have that be clearly, transparently detailed out in the process when you're creating your contract with the contractor, that they will be using other contractors. You are entitled to that information as well,” Rasor said.
“JUST PAINFUL LOOKING AT IT”
“It's honestly just painful looking at it,” Anny Nguyen said of the mess in her backyard.
The Nguyens are now following JDM’s bankruptcy case closely after pouring thousands of dollars into a dream currently on hold.
“Thinking that your dreams are going to come true for this, you know, we didn't build this for us, we built this for our kids,” Anny Nguyen said.
The Nguyens said they’ve also reached out to the Parker Police Department, the Collin County DA’s Office and the Office of the Texas Attorney General.
Parker police say the matter is civil and it’s not involved.
A spokesperson in the Collin County DA’s Office said it couldn’t comment.
After NBC 5 Responds began asking questions, three consumers in Collin County told us McKinney Police have been back in touch with them to find out more about their experience with JDM.
NBC 5 Responds will keep you posted if there are any future developments.
NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and a resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our customer complaint form.