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Closed business still demanding payments for broken equipment

The company, which has been out of business for a year, is still charging customers for faulty equipment.
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 5:51 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A business owner who had to shutdown her company after the business’s state license was surrendered is still collecting payments from customers who are stuck with broken equipment.

WBTV started investigating Elite Water Systems and owner Melissa Hardin in 2020 when we received a call from James Werkheiser.

A flyer in the mail is what eventually got Elite Water systems at Werkeiser’s front door.

“They told us that our water was really bad, that we were drinking high concentrated levels of lead, nitrates and stuff like that,” Werkheiser said.

He bought a water filtration system from Elite Water after their sales pitch, but Elite made a mistake and tested his water again, without realizing their system was already installed.

“I still had lead in my water, I still had nitrates, I still had high levels of copper,” Werkheiser said.

WBTV spoke with more upset customers and in April 2021, the State Board of Examiners of Plumbing suspended Elite’s plumbing license saying the company violated a dozen codes, including not acquiring a permit, and not properly connecting the water-softener system.

But we kept hearing from Elite Water customers who said their systems weren’t working.

“It has not worked, I would say for the past year,” Enoch Williams said.

“I just want my money back because it has not worked,” Sharee Pemberton said.

Pemberton and many other customers are still making payments because they got financing to buy the system.

In Pemberton’s case, it was financed by Sky Financial.

“I get a receipt from Sky Financial that says Melissa at Elite Water,” she said. “Why does this receipt have Melissa’s name on it when it’s a receipt from a payment that I made to Sky Financial?”

WBTV searched state business records and found Elite Water and Sky Financial are run by the same person, Melissa Hardin in Wilmington.

“It was just like whoa, wait a minute, Sky Financial and Elite Water is one in the same,” Pemberton said.

Pemberton says that’s when she decided to stop making payments to Sky. She says someone from Sky called her.

“I said, ‘well, I’m not giving you anymore money, let me speak to Melissa,’ and so when I asked to speak to Melissa, that phone clicked and it hung up,” Pemberton said.

Not all of Elite Water’s deals were financed through Sky. But customers like Pemberton and Williams are still on the hook for thousands of dollars.

In an email to WBTV, a representative of Elite wrote, “as of April 2021, Elite Water ceased all business operations.”

However, state business records show an annual report filed for Elite on April 7, 2020.

WBTV asked whether Sky was still receiving payments from Elite customers and they only answered that “Sky Financial has not made any loans for several years.”

Pemberton bought her system less than two years ago. And the financing deals can last at least five years.

“I think they should be willing to give me back my money and come get this mess out of my yard,” she said.

Customers tell WBTV when they call the manufacturer of the filter system, they’re often told it’s an installation issue caused by Elite Water, which is the same reason the company’s license was revoked. If you’re an Elite Water customer, send us an email at investigates@wbtv.com.

In an email to WBTV, an attorney for Elite wrote, “Puronics is well aware that there is a significant issue with their solar-powered water-treatment systems, and that is the cause of any such issues customers may be having with their systems,” and that those issues extend beyond Elite Water’s warranty.

State business records show other companies registered under Hardin’s name include Environmental Water, LLC, filed in April 2021, and Sky Home Innovations.

Another company called Wellness Organics, LLC lists its principal office as the same address in Wilmington owned by Hardin and listed for her other companies.

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