VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Two local families have been awarded $20,000 each from a state consumer protection fund after problems they had with Artistic Pools Unlimited, a contractor WAVY investigated last year.

It took months of fighting in court, and to make a claim to that money, the families had to prove to the Virginia Board of Contractors that the company acted in an improper or dishonest way.

When we first began our investigation, the backyard of Liam and Jennifer Benincasa was a hole in the ground with a few pool walls and little else.

“One of my original thoughts when this first happened was to fill it in and cut our losses,” he said in a recent interview.

They paid Artistic nearly $35,000 on a $45,000 contract, but the work then stopped. The family had to hire a second contractor, Roberts Enterprises, not only to complete the job, but repair what had already been done. And one of the key repairs was to make the bottom of the pool right.

“In this case here they had lost the entire bottom of the pool, and at that stage they had lost the entire bottom of the pool,” said second contractor Greg Roberts. “The only way to get that back up is bringing in more money to bring up the bottom in gravel. They incurred a huge expense just in gravel to bring the bottom of the pool up.”

Roberts says he had to re-work other items.

“We started redoing all of the plumbing that was in play, they had it all piecemealed together so we took all of that out and changed it and did it the right way.”

In May, the Benincasas were awarded $20,000 from the Virginia Contractor Transaction Recovery Fund, the maximum allowed.

Justin Roth is another former customer of Artistic Pools who called 10 On Your Side in 2021.

The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) recently found that the work done by Artistic Pools in Roth’s backyard was deficient in 13 areas. Roth also hired Roberts to come in and make the job right.

“There were quite a few things that were not installed properly,” Roberts said.

“The second contractor provided a lot of relief, but at the end of the day we still had to dish out more money,” Roth said.

Like the Benincasas, Roth was able to recover $20,000 under the Transaction Recovery Act, but that didn’t cover all of his extra expenses, not to mention all the time and inconvenience.

Both families had to first obtain a final judgment from a Virginia court in a civil lawsuit filed against the contractor, and then have the Board of Contractors approve their claims for payment under the Transaction Recovery Act.

“That was one of the hardest parts for us. To try and get court dates and get folks in there and actually work, that was about a year,” Liam Benincasa said.

After our initial story more than a year ago, a total of eight families contacted us with their own stories about problems with Artistic Pools Unlimited.

“Without you doing this story, they’re still in this area continuing to do the same thing,” Benincasa said. “Because you did the story, it brought it to light.”