Pool builder accused of fraud avoids prison but must reimburse customers

James Griffin pleaded no contest to one count of organized scheme to defraud

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A swimming pool contractor arrested for allegedly taking customers’ money but failing to complete the jobs has been ordered to reimburse seven victims as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

James Griffin pleaded no contest to one count of organized scheme to defraud, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Under the plea agreement, Griffin was sentenced to 20 years of supervised probation and was ordered to pay restitution to his former customers.

According to court documents, prosecutors believed the need for payment of restitution to the victims outweighed the need for a prison sentence.

“I’m glad it worked out,” said James Rothholz, a former customer who paid Griffin more than $30,000 to build a backyard pool. “It certainly took a long time. And I’ve got to tell you, I was a little cynical about it. I figured that I would never see anything.”

Griffin and his attorney declined to comment.

Volusia County deputies arrested Griffin in 2019 following complaints that the pool contractor’s company, Aquatic Daze Pools, collected large deposits from customers but then did little or no work.

Upon learning his sentence, Griffin immediately turned over $60,000 that was to be distributed to the victims. Griffin was also ordered to pay nearly $139,000 in restitution, which is to be paid in $500 monthly installments that will be divided among his seven Volusia County victims.

“My end of that will be about $71 [per month],” said Rothholz. “So I’ll be about 94 years old when [it’s fully paid].”

Griffin was also ordered to pay restitution to a victim in Flagler County, court records show.

If Griffin misses two monthly payments, Rothholz said he and other victims may be eligible to collect money from the Florida Homeowners’ Construction Recovery Fund, which provides financial assistance to customers harmed by a licensed contractor.

The state revoked Griffin’s pool contractor license in 2020, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation records show.

Rothholz, who later hired Agua Pools to finish his swimming pool, said he is grateful the state attorney was able to obtain restitution for the victims, no matter how long it may take for them to fully collect it.

“[The prosecutor] could have put [Griffin] in jail, and rightly so,” said Rothholz. He deserved that. This is a major crime.”

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.