Pool contractor slipped through NC Licensing Board despite bankruptcies, lawsuit

Updated: Oct. 23, 2019 at 6:33 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A WBTV Investigation into how a pool contractor swindled dozens of customers out of thousands of dollars has raised new questions about the process contractors go through in North Carolina to obtain a license.

Clients of Charlotte Fiberglass Pools reached out to WBTV in droves after the first story on the company was broadcast. In total, nearly 40 customers have contacted WBTV claiming that they were left with a defective product or worse, didn’t receive anything for the thousands they paid.

Charlotte Fiberglass Pools is owned by Niury Ortiz and her husband, the late Gabe Ortiz, but the actual company name is Bananafish LLC.

What WBTV uncovered led to another investigation. Attorney General Josh Stein’s office opened an investigation into the company, prompted in part by our questions and a stack of complaints his office received.

WBTV found in Mecklenburg and Union counties, Charlotte Fiberglass left dozens of permits open, never getting a final inspection. After our story, Mecklenburg County Code Enforcement announced it was launching new software to better track projects.

WBTV’s continued digging on Charlotte Fiberglass Pools revealed that this wasn’t the first time the owners had tried, and failed, to start a pool company.

  • In 2005, Gabe Ortiz founded Douglas Aquatics in the Charlotte area and in 2007, Ortiz applied for and was granted a license to build swimming pools by the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors.
  • After several years the company faced multiple lawsuits from customers and subcontractors. The company dissolved after they stopped filing paperwork with the North Carolina Secretary of State.
  • In 2011, Niury and Gabe Ortiz filed for bankruptcy in Miami, Florida and defaulted on more than $400,000 in debt.
  • By 2013, they were back in North Carolina and Gabe Ortiz once again filed for a swimming pool license with the Licensing Board. But on the application, Ortiz marked that he had never filed a petition in bankruptcy. He also didn’t check boxes disclosing lawsuits, contract controversy and problems paying for labor and supplies.

Over six years of licensing renewals with the board, Ortiz and Charlotte Fiberglass made numerous falsehoods including marking that they were not under investigation by the licensing board even when they were.

Through all that time Ortiz was able to keep his contractors license while running Charlotte Fiberglass Pools.

“If you file bankruptcy isn’t it public record?” Fiberglass customer Keisha Shabazz told WBTV.

“No one did their job pretty much,” Shabazz said.

“If you’re getting a driver’s license you have to take a driver’s license test. If you’re getting a general contractors license, there should be some validation that the things you are saying are true. If not what’s the point,” Fiberglass customer Adele Hallyburton told WBTV.

WBTV reached out to the Secretary of the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors for an interview. Secretary Frank Weisner turned down three separate interview requests but the WBTV Investigates team showed up at a Licensing Board meeting to ask him questions anyway.

Tomorrow at 6 p.m. WBTV questions Weisner about why and how the licensing board approved Ortiz’s license despite his false claims.

This is the beginning of a special segment WBTV is bringing to you called Construction Corruption. The WBTV Investigates team is looking at some of the biggest, most glaring issues in the construction industry and how they’re leaving consumers vulnerable.

The Construction Corruption special will air Wednesday, October 30th at 7:30 on On Your Side Tonight.

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