But what happens when a hole dug out of the ground and destined to become a pool remains an empty hole?
Lawrence Chavez and Robin Ivey live on different ends of the city and have very different lifestyles. But they are now bonded through a common nightmare.
“We had some money set aside and we also went through a partial loan,” Chavez said. “In January is when everything started.”
Construction for a new pool started at the beginning of the year for Chavez…and ended up not going anywhere. From January to May, he said had an empty dirt hole in his backyard.
Ivey went through the same ordeal.
“It was really frustrating. It was sickening – that’s probably the best word to describe it,” she said.
Chavez and Ivey both hired Hernandez Pools and Sons – a company that also goes by Hernandez Pool and Spa – to build their backyard oasis. Ivey agreed to a $58,000 contract, and Chavez was promised his pool would be completed for $41,000.
At first, it seemed like all was going well.
“Hernandez Pools started excavation January 6th, and everything kind of took from there,” Chavez said.
But then, both said, the work suddenly stopped. They said that for nearly half a year, Hernandez Pools left a massive hole in their backyard, nowhere near completion.
“Each step of the process didn’t happen when they said it was going to,” Ivey said.
“(It was) very frustrating, just coming home looking at this big mess,” Chavez said.
They said the company’s owner, Cisco Hernandez, came to them for more money. Sometimes he demanded the checks be made out to the company, other times to himself.
But after months of throwing money into an empty hole, delays and messages they say were ignored, Chavez and Ivey made the decision to cut ties with Hernandez Pools. A different contractor would be hired to finish the job.
Lawrence said that added about an extra $7,000 to $8,000 to what he had paid. Ivey said her family estimated they spent nearly double what they had initially budgeted.
As it turns out, it wasn’t just an empty hole that Hernandez Pools left them with, but also infrastructure that wasn’t correctly installed. The contractor who had to pick up the pieces reported a number of problems, including pipes that were too shallow, bad cement pours and incorrectly placed gas lines.
“There was some stuff done with the trench work on the end. They had to fix some stuff, things weren’t deep enough, pipes would have frozen and we would have ended up with a mess,” Chavez said.
Chavez and Ivey both filed complaints with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Consumer Division. It turns out their situation wasn’t totally unique; another former Hernandez Pools customer complained that he paid $10,000 for a pool cover from Hernandez that he never got.
Many others have complained to the Better Business Bureau. The watchdog organization gives Hernandez Pools a failing grade.
PROBLEMS BEHIND THE SCENES
We were able to find Hernandez’s wife, Delilah, who identified herself as the company’s business manager, at a West Side house.
She said that the company had been having some internal issues, including dealing with a previous partner to Hernandez Pools who was fired after allegedly taking money from the company.
“They had to kind of eat all those expenses up,” Delilah said.
She said those things were communicated to customers of Hernandez Pools. When asked if she was aware of the numerous complaints filed by Chavez, Ivey and others, Delilah said she knew about “some of them.”
“But I don’t work at the office anymore,” she added. “I’ve had complete separation from my husband.”
We asked Delilah to help get us in touch with Cisco Hernandez. Moments later, he texted the following:
“Unfortunately we had a disgruntled employee ‘family member’ who was caught stealing money from Hernandez Pools for several years and would no longer be working for us. For the huge inconvenience in which we put our customers through, we extended warranties, we did additional work. I do apologize for this huge inconvenience which we have caused our clients, but we are not robbers nor intend on walking away from any of our projects.”
Hernandez later referred us to his attorney, but we have not yet heard back, despite repeated calls and messages.
‘ENOUGH TEARS TO FILL THIS UP’
Apologies don’t cut it for Chavez and Ivey. They’re out thousands of dollars after their projects went over-budget, far past deadlines that were set.
Ivey is even paying a lawyer and court fees to get her money back.
“I’ve told my friends, I’ve told a lot of people, (that) when it came to fill the pool, I told them we could have filled it with all of the tears we cried over this,” she said. “Between myself and my kids, I’m pretty sure there were enough tears to fill this up, with all those tears.”
Updated: October 23, 2017 07:32 PM
Created: October 22, 2017 08:54 PM
Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved