In December 2022, we reported one of the owner’s of Legacy Pools, Charles “Chad Black, was arrested in Brevard County on an out-of-county arrest warrant for Osceola County on felony fraud charges. Last month, just before Christmas, those charges were dropped by prosecutors.
State Attorney William Gladson sent us a statement saying, “This case was presented as a situation where a pool builder entered into a contract with the victim, but never performed any work on said contract. After depositions were taken of the victim, and the lead investigator, it was determined that the builder had in fact performed several material aspects of the contract.”
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He went on to say, “The law requires the State to prove that at the time the parties entered into the contract, the builder had no intention of ever performing. Evidence of actual performance of some portion of the contract (as we have in this case) negates an intent not to perform at the inception of the contract.”
He referenced two specific cases in the decision. In the case of Segal v. State (2012), the issue revolved around the non-performance of a contract to construct kitchen cabinets. The court in this case concluded that the state failed to prove felonious intent, which is a critical element for a grand theft charge. The court’s reasoning was based on the evidence presented which suggested that the appellant, although failing to fully perform the contract, had made some efforts to fulfill his contractual obligations. This included activities like purchasing materials and making rental payments for workspace, essential for the performance of the contract. The court found that these actions were not inconsistent with the appellant’s hypothesis that this was merely a failure to perform a contractual obligation, rather than a criminal act with felonious intent.
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Similarly, in Frazier v. State (2013), the court reversed a judgment and sentence for grand theft that arose from the nonperformance of a contract to remodel a property. In this case, the appellant had entered into a contract, received a down payment, and performed some work on the property. However, due to complications with obtaining a building permit and other issues, the project was not completed. The court found that the evidence was insufficient to prove that the appellant had the specific intent to commit theft at the time of, or prior to, the commission of the act of taking. It was noted that broken promises of performance, occurring subsequent to the claimed taking, do not establish the requisite criminal intent to prove grand theft. This principle was consistent with previous case law, where evidence of some effort to perform the contract negated the presumption of criminal intent.
“Applying the case law of the facts above, the state can no longer continue prosecution in good faith as this matter is civil in nature,” Gladson concluded.
This news comes as a blow to the hundreds of citizens in Brevard County who have been defrauded by Legacy Pools for tens of thousands of dollars, left with nothing but large holes in their yards and concrete from unfinished pools. As of now, no criminal charges have been filed in Brevard against the Black’s.
In contrast to this decision however, Swimming pool company owners Chrystal Washburn, 39, and Brian Washburn, 34, charged with defrauding hundreds of homeowners on the Treasure Coast. (Indian River County Sheriff’s Office)
According to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Amore’ Pools Inc. owner Brian Washburn defrauded Florida homeowners out of nearly $3 million, often leaving dangerous debris piles and gaping holes in victims’ backyards instead of performing the promised work. He defrauded more than 150 Floridians who made upfront payments to have pools built on their properties.
“The defendant took their money but failed to do the work—often leaving victims with large holes in their backyards. Law enforcement uncovered this multimillion-dollar scheme, and now my Office of Statewide Prosecution has secured multiple felony convictions related to this massive fraud,” said Attorney General Moody.
The differences between the Washburn case and the Black’s case are not obviously apparent. However, the Black’s are facing multiple civil suits from Brevard County residents, as well as navigating their way through bankruptcy court.
Bank records obtained through discovery in the bankruptcy filings implicated Elevation Church and it’s pastor Chad Cooper and his wife Jen Cooper as alleged co-conspirators in the fraud. According to the complaints, the Blacks are accused of soliciting pre-construction deposits and progress payments under duress, often threatening legal action against homeowners who resisted. Instead of using these funds to build pools, the Blacks allegedly diverted them to personal accounts and unrelated entities, including Elevation Church and directly to Chad and Jennifer Cooper’s personal accounts according to bank records.
The complaint further alleges that in 2019, Chad Black conspired with Chad and Jen Cooper, pastors of Elevation Church, to commit wire fraud. They used the church’s tax-exempt status to purchase construction materials, thereby evading taxes. The church, in turn, received substantial donations from the Blacks, totaling $156,500.00.
The timeline of these activities is crucial to understanding the pattern of racketeering behavior. The complaint lists multiple acts in violation of federal statutes over several years, including bribery, conspiracy, and wire fraud. The Blacks are accused of bribing the Coopers with luxury items and trips in exchange for their participation in the fraudulent scheme.
Chad and Jen Cooper, despite their leadership roles at Elevation Church, are accused of aiding and abetting the fraud. The complaint suggests that they were fully aware that the donations to the church were proceeds from the fraudulent pool enterprise but turned a blind eye, as these donations made their branch appear successful. The Coopers initially stated they received no direct funds from Legacy Pools, however, bank records from the bankruptcy case proved that to not be true.
The Coopers came under severe public scrutiny when they published photos on social media of multiple luxury international travel with the owners of Legacy Pools, the Blacks. Records show that the Coopers paid only $66 for his roundtrip ticket to Greece, allegedly using credit card points he accumulated by purchasing pool supplies for Legacy Pools in an apparent scheme to avoid paying taxes.
The alleged scheme has reportedly misappropriated over 30 million dollars from over 600 unsuspecting homeowners. The Coopers are accused of furthering the scheme by erasing the money trail and bullying anyone who spoke out against the Blacks, including members of their congregation who came to the pastors for help.
Amidst these allegations, the bankruptcy case involving Legacy Pools, LLC has brought further issues to light. The Chapter 7 Trustee, Robert Altman, has filed a motion to compromise claims with Elevation Church, following the discovery of potentially avoidable fraudulent transfers to the church totaling $221,400.
The Trustee’s motion outlines a proposed compromise with Elevation Church, which includes:
A settlement payment of $150,000 from Elevation Church to the Trustee to resolve claims related to the avoidable transfers.
A requirement for Elevation Church to pay the settlement within 14 days of the court’s approval, with provisions for enforcement should the church fail to comply. A judge has ruled that the donations to Elevation were made in ‘bad faith’ evidenced by the hundreds of outstanding pools left unfinished by Legacy while stating they did not have the money to purchase the supplies for the pools. The judge also mentioned that the Blacks took a deposit from another homeowner to build a pool just two weeks before filing for bankruptcy according to their bank records.
An injunction preventing third parties from asserting claims for damages due to the avoidable transfers, ensuring the bankruptcy estate retains the sole right to recovery.
On December 15, 2023, the judge issued an order granting the proposed compromise.