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Published on June 21, 2024
Palm Springs Pool Company Owner Sentenced to 18 Years for Million-Dollar Fraud Against Florida HomeownersSource: Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office

In an outcome that underscores the risks homeowners face when investing in their properties, Ricardo Villarroel Duerto, the owner of the Palm Springs-based pool company Villa Pavers and Pools, has been sentenced to an 18-year prison term. Villarroel had been charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering after defrauding nearly 100 homeowners across Florida, with losses exceeding $1 million. According to Florida Daily, Attorney General Ashley Moody's Office of Statewide Prosecution led the legal action that culminated in the sentence handed down by Judge William S. Orth.

Florida homeowners had been enticed by the company's offers for constructing pools at prices much lower than the market rate, an investigative report detailed by FOX 13 News revealed. Villarroel's company asked for sizable upfront payments — routinely collecting around 40% of the full price — before leaving projects incomplete, and, in some instances, not even started after securing the deposit by simply halting communications.

The deceit unraveled as complaints mounted and investigations uncovered the depth of the operation's deceit. A victim in Westlake, Diana Decker, epitomized the plight of many as these Floridians sought the fulfillment of a simple domestic pleasure, a backyard pool, a symbol of achieved dreams and communal joy, stated by NBC Miami. Instead, they were left with gaping holes that once promised refreshment and gatherings but now stood as stark reminders of trust betrayed.

In collaboration with Villarroel, licensed general contractor Luis Alvarez of Conquer Builders facilitated the fraud by lending his contractor license to the unlicensed Villa Pavers and Pools, allowing them to appear legitimate to homeowners and to obtain necessary building permits. Alvarez along with two salespersons, Michael Borrego Fernandez and Laura Ballester Alpizar, are also in custody, facing charges similar to those for which Villarroel has been convicted. While Alvarez pled guilty to the charges, sentencing is still pending, Florida Daily reports.

The hefty 18-year sentence for Villarroel underscores a severe reprimand for those willing to exploit the aspirations of homeowners. "This shady contractor took advantage of nearly 100 Florida homeowners, including seniors, trying to buy a pool—causing more than $1 million in losses," Moody said in a statement. With this sentencing, justice seems to have been served, yet for the nearly 100 defrauded homeowners, the road to recourse is likely to be a long and daunting swim back to financial and emotional replenishment.

Tampa-Crime & Emergencies