Wounded vet: Embattled contractor took 2 years to finish pool

President of Paradise Pools of St. Augustine charged with embezzlement

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – More people are coming forward to file complaints against the president of Paradise Pools of St. Augustine, who’s accused of swindling clients out of money.

Richard Woods, 54, was charged with embezzlement after St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office investigators said he received over $83,000 in payments for new pools and used that money for himself.

Woods, who turned himself in to deputies Wednesday, posted bond and is now out of jail.

Woods' business is not affiliated with Paradise Pool Service of Jacksonville.

Wounded veteran John Hayes said it took two years for Woods to build his pool, and during that time, two liens were placed on Hayes' house.

Hayes said he signed a contract to have the pool built in March 2013. But for the next six months, he was recovering in a hospital in Maryland before medically retiring from the military.

When he came home that October, a hole hadn't even been dug for the pool.

“My house didn't take two years to complete,” Hayes said. “It wasn't until I started thinking of it like that that it bothered me even more.”

The Semper Fi Fund, which helps wounded Marines, like Hayes, arranged to pay $50,000 of Hayes' pool contract. Invoices show that $30,000 of that was paid in May 2013, despite no work being done.

“The very first thing is that I thought the Semper Fi Fund had been swindled of their money. When I came home (from Maryland) to retire, nothing had been done,” Hayes said.

Hayes said he even had two liens put on his property and was threatened by the county for fines of up to $1,000 per day in January 2015 for using the pool without a certificate of completion. At that time, the work wasn’t finished.

“(I would say), 'Give me a date that we can shoot for to have this done by,' and he never made those dates,” Hayes said. “It was always way past that or something else would come up, but at least I did my best to stay on him."

The pool was finally finished in March 2015. Hayes said even after that, he had to get more work done on it. He said he wasn’t shocked to see that Woods was arrested this week.

“What I saw was no communication, no follow-through,” Hayes said. “Really, I thought it was a scam. I thought we had been scammed and Semper Fi Fund had lost that money. That's what was the most disheartening.”

Hayes said he's not sure what penalties he thinks Woods deserves, but he's hopeful that no other families ever have to go through something like he did.