UPDATE: The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office is looking for the owner of Artistic Backyard Creations, Steven Cantu, for two counts of Contractor Fraud and One Count of Misapplication of Payments. We spoke to him over the phone on Friday and his statement is included in this article.
BOSSIER PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Bossier families are speaking out after they say they were defrauded out of thousands of dollars by a local business.
Just before 8 p.m. Friday, Fabio Cantu, Steven’s father and one of the contractors mentioned in this article, was booked into Bossier Maximum Security in Plain Dealing on two counts of home improvement fraud. His bail has been set at $125,000.
The families say they paid the contractor to build swimming pools in their backyards, but the pools were not built. They found out the company has lost its license, leaving them thousands of dollars out of pocket. The victims include a veteran and special needs child.
Beth Woods shows us where her swimming pool was supposed to be built. She said she paid the Bossier business called Artistic Backyard Creations upwards of $30,000 dollars in deposits to install the pool.
“We finally had saved enough and gotten to the point where we were financially comfortable to afford that,” Beth Woods said.
Beth said the pool project was her idea. She said did her research, interviewed the company owners, and picked them because some of her neighbors were also using them.
“Talked to our neighbors and looked at their pools. Unfortunately, their pools were not finished because it had been raining all Spring and they kept having to put all their pools on hold. We thought that was the reasoning was and we kind of overlooked that,” Woods said.
She said she wanted the pool for her husband Mark. They face a difficult timeline in their lives. Mark has stage four cancer. So she wanted to give him something to enjoy with the time they have left.
“They informed us they were building a pool for a St. Jude child, which really touched our hearts. We informed them about my husband’s stage four cancer, and he informed us about how he had cancer. So we just felt like they were the perfect fit,” Beth said.
She found out the St. Jude child was actually her neighbor’s daughter. But her dad Chris Tuminello said she was not a St. Jude’s child. He had paid out of pocket to also have a pool built.
“The reason for her pool was her for therapy for her situation. That was the reason was for her,” Tuminello said.
Chris’ daughter, Juliana has Rett syndrome and her doctors recommended swimming for physical therapy. His wife also researched the company.
“We did our homework. My wife did her homework. But that’s how good they are at what they do. The less people this can happen to the better,” Tuminello said.
He said the company came out and dug a hole, but never came back.
“As of right now I have a hole in my yard and that’s it. When we would call them and asked when they would come continue it would be one excuse after another,” Tuminello said.
The Woods said they got even less for what they paid for.
“Basically $30 to $32,000 for spray paint and stakes in the ground. That’s what we got,” Mark Woods said.
Beth said the contractor told her they had received permits to build the pool, but then she called the Bossier Parish permitting office.
“They informed me that permits were applied at our property but they were not granted,” Woods said.
We got in touch with the company that’s being owned by Steven Cantu. He said he’s selling the company.
“What is the state of your company right now, you said somebody is taking it over?
“Yeah, I’m in the position of selling it. That was months ago, I think,” said Steven Cantu, in a phone interview.
“So how does it work if you’re selling your company currently, but you say you’re installing these pools that these people have paid for?”
“I mean they’ve taken all responsibility and liability and everything so I guess I don’t know the whole state of what’s going on of what’s going on exactly,” Cantu said.
He said no one has been scammed and the process is taking a long time due to nationwide issues.
“What is your overall message to these families who feel they’ve been scammed in this situation is scammed in this situation?”
“Scammed I don’t know how to respond to that because nobody has been scammed you know there’s a process and we have to do our jobs or else we can’t do it. I don’t know we have several happy customers. That’s hard for me to respond to that,” Cantu said.
Beth said she contacted the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office after finding other families who used the same company under the contractors Steven and Fab Cantu.
“We all started coming together and putting notes together. So far I’m in contact with 25 families who are all in the same boat,” Beth said.
She feels they all were taken advantage of.
“We’re very aware that my $30 to $32,000 is gone and I’m never going to see it again. I believe in justice,” Beth said.
They shared their experience to make sure other families do not fall victim to the fraud.
Mark who’s also a retired Army Ranger shares his message.
“Extremely frustrated. But as Christians were still forgive them. We just want to see justice,” Mark said.
Chris said he wants other families like his aware.
“I feel worse for her. It’s not me or my wife. It’s not about us. It was for her. You just feel horrible. Anybody else with children like this or have similar situations, you wouldn’t want that on anyone,” Tuminello said.
The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office said they are investigating the company.
Deputies said if any families have been also affected by the contractors, should contact the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office.