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Dream swimming pools turn into nightmares for dozens of North Texans

Dream swimming pools turn into nightmares for dozens of North Texans
Dream swimming pools turn into nightmares for dozens of North Texans 05:02

Caprice Bohr dreamt of having a pool. Since last summer, she's been stuck with a swamp.

"Very upsetting," she said staring at the unfinished pool collecting rainwater and debris.

She's one of the dozens of North Texas homeowners that paid MerLux Pools for projects it never completed.

"The pool is literally collapsing," said Erica Payton in a video showing the massive hole in her yard. "Looks like a damn landfill."

Anusha Raavi and Kedar Kunal say they paid MerLux $142,000 to build them a backyard oasis with a pool, waterfalls, fire bowls, and an outdoor kitchen. "Everything was so damn perfect," said Raavi of the plans MerLux made for them.

Then came the knock at the door just before Thanksgiving dinner. It was a fellow customer they'd never met who warned them that the company was going under. 

"Someone knocking on your door before your Thanksgiving Day telling you like you know your pool company is going downfall. Would you like to believe it?  No, I want to celebrate my Thanksgiving."

By that Sunday, though, it was official. MerLux was declaring bankruptcy.

Upset customers, many of whom sunk six figures into plans for a pool, found each other on Facebook and started digging. One woman shared a video of herself confronting one of the owners, Jared Hall, weeks before the bankruptcy. 

"I understand you may be frustrated with timing or communication or whatever. At the end of the day, the contract is law. It is enforceable. We haven't breached that. If you're not getting your way, sorry. Welcome to construction!" Hall said.

In court records, MerLux reports it owes money to at least 35 customers and has a total of more than $2 million in debt.
That doesn't include Bohr's family. "They're telling us that they've finished our pool," she said. "That's really hard to take in - that they think they've finished."

Court records show MerLux may have had as many as 62 pools in progress.

"This company wanted to go big all at once," said Kunal.

In a recorded phone meeting with a bankruptcy trustee, the company's co-owner Ryan Setty-O'Connor admitted as much.

"We were signing contracts faster than we could stay on top of it and build pools," he said.

Setty-O'Conner testified under oath that the main reason the company failed was because of his partner. He claims Hall was stealing money, spending it lavishly, and deceiving everyone, including him.

"There was about $90,000 in personal charges. Travel, shopping, vacations, and a brand new Mercedes SUV that he purchased for himself," Setty O'Connor said.

Hall, it turns out, was sick. His business partner testified he died in January from an unspecified illness.   

"It was an illness that I know now was present for quite some time that was never shared or disclosed to me," he testified.

Some customers aren't convinced Hall is the only one to blame. Setty-O'Connor testified he knew some of MerLux's glowing reviews were fake. "There were reviews that were posted that were non-factual, nor from real clients. That is correct," he said.

Two customers told bankruptcy trustee Shawn Brown they were forced to remove negative reviews.

Customers have grown so skeptical they've even questioned, in the absence of an obituary or public death certificate, whether Jared Hall is actually dead.

Maybe two years later, they both might be sipping margaritas on some beach," speculated Raavi.

CBS News Texas has been unable to independently confirm Hall's death, but Brown said that he was provided with a "scan copy of the death certificate" that "appeared authentic."

With few assets left, he warned it's unlikely the company will ever pay off much of its debt, leaving customers to clean up its mess.

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