ATLANTA — Backyard pools are a big dream for many families as the weather gets hot. Since the pandemic, they have been in even bigger demand.
But many families in Cobb and Cherokee counties have run into big, costly problems with the same pool builder.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray spoke with people who say pool builder Richard Anthony Tracey took tens of thousands of dollars from them, then abandoned the projects.
“This is not what it looked like when he left?” Gray asked Laura Briley as they walked along her new backyard pool.
“No. It was a hole. A concrete hole,” Briley said.
While it looks picture-perfect now, Laura Briley showed Gray a picture of what her backyard looked like when she says her pool builder abandoned the project. The picture shows a concrete hole surrounded by dirt.
“You don’t want to believe it. You don’t. You think he’ll be back but he won’t,” Briley said.
Ron Shepherd’s pool disaster looked nearly identical to Briley’s when the same pool builder walked away.
“He told a very good story and I believed it,” Shepherd said.
“But it wasn’t true?” Gray asked.
“No, not at all,” Shepherd said.
It’s not just Shepherd and Briley. We talked to more than half a dozen people with nearly identical stories.
One homeowner, whose pool construction began back in July, allowed Channel 2 to take video of her abandoned pool, because she still holds out hope the builder will return. She declined to speak to Gray on camera.
Homeowner after homeowner sent Gray pictures and told similar stories of their pool nightmares, all tied to the same man going by multiple names and multiple company names: Richard Anthony Tracey.
“We would call him and it was excuse after excuse,” Briley said.
Briley and her husband saved up for years to build a backyard oasis with the grandkids in mind.
“You budget for it. You put money aside. We saved a good while to have a pool,” Briley said.
Briley says she had already paid Tracey $35,000 when the work just stopped and the excuses began.
Eventually she had to pay another pool builder to come in and finish the job.
“He just stopped coming?” Gray asked Briley.
“Stopped coming back,” Briley said.
“Left you with a hole in the ground?” Gray asked. Briley nodded.
“With water, little bit of rain water,” Briley said.
“He said within 30 to 40 days you should be swimming, and that wasn’t the case at all,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd says instead, the excuses and the mess piled up.
“The depressing part, the reason I didn’t look at it was, you don’t know what it’s going to cost to finish it,” Shepherd said.
Gray thought he might find Tracey at one of the several pools in progress he has active building permits for.
At one home, someone was delivering pool building materials; but no Tracey.
The address registered with the Secretary of State for Tracey’s company led Gray to a Woodstock UPS store.
Tracey’s company has frequently changed names.
Currently going by the name Mountain Springs Designs, it’s also been Southern Pool Crafters, Southern Pools and Spas, Better Pools and Spas and Original Pool Designs.
Customers tell Gray that Tracey has switched from going by Richard Tracey to going by his middle name, “Anthony”.
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“I hope that I can save one person, honestly. I hope I can,” Shepherd said.
Tracey initially agreed to do an on-camera interview with Gray, writing by email: “I would like to speak with you. You see you are being lied to. I always am willing to complete the pools as contracted for.”
But minutes later, his attorney canceled the interview.
That attorney, Jordan Aldridge, did write us back about a week later. He claims it’s the customers, not Tracey, who are at fault for the uncompleted pools.
“Unfortunately, many of these customers elected to terminate the contract or let the project sit dormant rather than make the agreed-upon progress payments, thereby leaving the construction project partially completed,” Aldridge said.
For the homeowners involved, this was expensive. Shepherd paid Tracey $45,000 before having to call in help to finish the pool.
“It cost me another $60,000 to finish it,” Shepherd said
Briley also essentially paid for two pools after having to pay a new builder $40,000 to finish where Tracey left off. The total cost was $75,000.
“I just want him to stop. Stop doing this to families,” Briley said.
Gray wasn’t the only one who had trouble tracking Tracey down.
Another family Gray talked to has been trying to serve Tracey with a lawsuit, but the process servers can’t find him.
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