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Homeowners out money for backyard pool react to developments since WCCO launched investigation

Homeowners out money for backyard pool react to developments since WCCO launched investigation
Homeowners out money for backyard pool react to developments since WCCO launched investigation 03:08

MINNEAPOLIS -- The pool contractor at the center of a WCCO investigation is being sued by the Attorney General's office.

"This is deceptive trade practice, this is fraud, this is, it's morally wrong but it's also illegal," Attorney General Keith Ellison said.

Ellison's office sued Charles, or Charlie, Workman less than two months after WCCO began an investigation. He's the swimming pool contractor accused of taking more than a million dollars collectively from at least 17 Minnesota families and abandoned the job.

WCCO's Jennifer Mayerle talked with families about all of the developments since a viewer tip launched our investigation.

Hiring the same contractor to build a backyard pool is what brought these families together.

"It's just been very difficult to watch other families after us go through the same thing," Shakopee homeowner Janel Holm said.

They banded together after not getting the pool they paid Charles Workman tens of thousands of dollars for. Some jobs never started, other backyards left in ruin.

"It's been a rollercoaster of emotions watching things unfold," Chanhassen homeowner Kyle Swenson said.

Since bringing their frustration and desire for change to WCCO in June, there's been action. The Attorney General's office sued Workman, with claims of fraud and deception. Law enforcement agencies across the metro are looking into criminal charges, and a legislator has proposed closing the gap in the law that prevents the homeowners from recouping money from the state contractor recovery fund.

"Just the pace of it has been really nice to see and the reaction and it's not going unnoticed," Prior Lake homeowner Heather Swearengin said.

Still, some say it doesn't ease the emotional and financial burden many are still experiencing.

"Every month you have to pay a payment on an eyesore in your backyard so it's been very stressful, heavy on your heart every day," Buffalo homeowner Annie Salonek said.

As WCCO's stories aired, more homeowners came forward. A veteran shared pictures of her backyard, telling Mayerle she spent money earned from deployment to build a pool to show her family how sacrifice could be rewarded in other ways.

And the list of people accusing Workman of taking their money, not finishing the job, not paying or bouncing a check is growing. Unfinished pool contracts exceeds one million dollars. Nearly $100,000 more in incomplete concrete work. Bounced checks in the thousands, non-payments in the tens of thousands. Civil judgments owed to companies for at least $75,000 and counting.

"I do feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg," Chaska homeowner Erin Olson said.

These families have a common goal: to stop Workman and prevent this from happening to anyone else.

"It makes me feel positive that we are making a difference. My story is helping, all these other family's stories is going to help someone in the future," New Prague homeowner Cassie Kieffer said.

WCCO reached out to Workman for comment and learned he's in a Kentucky jail on a warrant for fraud out of Indiana.

RELATED: Landscaper steps in to fill hole left behind by pool contractor accused of unfinished work

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