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Wanted pool company president turns self in

Richard Woods is president of Paradise Pools of St. Augustine

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The president of a pool company in St. Augustine who was wanted for embezzlement charges turned himself in Wednesday morning to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

Richard Lawrence Woods, 54, president of Paradise Pools and Spas of St. Augustine, is wanted in connection with four counts of misappropriating construction funds.

That business is not affiliated with Paradise Pool Service of Jacksonville.

Detectives said the incidents occurred between July 2014 and August 2015.

They began their investigation in February 2016 when one of the victims reported suspected misappropriation of construction funds.

During the investigation, three other people reported similar circumstances.

In the four known cases, Woods received more than $83,000 in payments for new pools for the four victims and used that money for personal gain, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

In one of the cases, a sub-contractor placed a lien on the victim's new home for materials that Woods ordered but never paid, SJCSO said.

The lengthy investigation of bank and business records, along with additional evidence, led detectives to believe Woods misappropriated funds in at least these four cases, according to SJCSO.

Woods refused to talk with investigators. They obtained an arrest warrant that carries a $40,000 bond.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said there are signs that people should look for when hiring someone to do work on their home.

"With a reputable dealer, you never pay anything up front. Make payments. But you also want to check them out through the Better Business Bureau. Check their references, or go to their work sites to make sure that they are doing good work," Smith said.