25 Investigates: New complaints emerge about problematic pool contractor

A local ‘pool guy’ with a history of stealing people’s money is facing new accusations. 25 Investigates first reported on this same contractor back in 2017. After our report, the contractor Jeffrey Trifone spent time in jail for stealing from local families.

New customers told us he got out and did it again, to them. But this time the story is a little more complicated.

Trifone’s family said he suffered a serious medical emergency in late May, a stroke that left him incapacitated. And they sent us some supporting medical documentation of his current state. But where does that leave customers who claim this guy duped them months ago long before he fell ill? 25 Investigates got some answers.

“We were so excited” Families say they misplaced their trust

Homeowners said they paid Trifone thousands. Their checks were cashed but the work was never finished or in some cases was never started.

“We were so excited. The kids were so excited. They still ask us every day”, said Rebecca Amaral.

Rebecca and her husband Nicholas Amaral had big plans for the summer. The Middleboro couple had saved up for a backyard pool for their family. They hired a local contractor to do the work.

“We found him on Facebook,” Rebecca said.

In January, they found Jeff Trifone and his company, Pool Solutions.

“The pool was going to be purchased in February. And then it was going to be delivered in six-to-eight weeks,” Nicholas said.

They signed a detailed contract, selected the pool package they wanted and paid Trifone a $12,000 deposit. They showed us the cashed check.

“We gave him a check; he cashed it the next day. And then there was little contact” said Rebecca, who says there’s still no progress on their pool.

Their backyard is untouched.

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Stacy and Walter Holyoke hired Pool Solutions in the Fall of 2019. They say Jeff Trifone used an alias, ‘Jeffrey Dana.’

“He came over with a contract. He said if you do the contract with us pre-season, we’ll get you on the books for next year,” Stacy said. “We’ll do it early spring, so you’ll be swimming by May 1st of 2020.”

The Holyoke’s also signed a contract. They paid in full nearly $20,000. They say it took many months, but the Bridgewater couple did get their pool and, along with it, a lot of problems.

“It’s just been a nightmare since” Walter said. “His tarp had fallen in and the pool water was way down, way down.”

The biggest problem was their $20,000 pool was leaking. Despite the promise of a warranty, the Holyoke’s said they needed to pay another contractor thousands more to repair the shoddy work. Stories like this about Trifone and his pool business date back years.

“He told me the pool needed to be paid in full before he could get the pool delivered to my house,” said Mike Marston in a 2017 interview with anchor and investigative reporter Kerry Kavanaugh.

The Northbridge family wanted a pool for therapy for their late son, Zak. Zak was 14 at the time and battling cerebral palsy.

“He told me the pool needed to be paid in full before he could get the pool delivered to my house” Marston said.

Out $1,100, the Marston’s called local police. Trifone was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in jail. But 25 Investigates found shortly after he was released, the accusations began again. We found a small claims case from 2019 against Pools Solutions and Trifone under that alias he gave the Holyoke’s in Bridgewater, ‘Jeffrey Dana.’

We visited courthouses across eastern and central Massachusetts and found Trifone has a criminal record dating back 1992. We pulled 80 cases out of nine different district courts, including multiple claims of larceny.

“He’s done this to so many people,” Rebecca Marston said.

About two dozen recent customers of Jeff Trifone started a Facebook group to share their experiences. Many talked about the difficulties in reaching Trifone once, they say, he got their money.

Another layer to this story

25 Investigates heard from a woman who identified herself as Trifone’s sister. She claims he suffered a stroke in late May and has been incapacitated ever since. In a text message she also said, “he has insurance for his business and people will be taken (sic) care of as soon as he is able to.”

She told Kavanaugh over the phone she didn’t think it was fair for this story to run, considering his condition. All complaints we gathered against Trifone and Pool Solutions happened months, if not years, before the family claims he fell ill.

“You know you trust somebody and ultimately it doesn’t work out like you want it to,” Nicholas Amaral said.

Help for Consumers

25 Investigates confirmed Trifone has an active home improvement contractor registration with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. The state agency told us since this is a registration, not a license, it requires no exam and no type of background check. There is a way to file a complaint against that registration.

If homeowners seeking a good contractor want to protect themselves, they can check with Mass Consumer Affairs to see if there’s not just an active registration, but if there are any complaints against it.

Kavanaugh also reached out to the Attorney General’s office on this. They said an important reminder here is that legally a contractor cannot collect more than a third of the total estimated cost of a job. The Attorney General encourages consumers who have concerns about bad contractors to reach out to the office at 617-727-8400 or file a complaint online at mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint.

Kavanaugh reached out the Marston family in Northbridge about these latest accusations. Mike and Brooke Marston sent a written message saying in part, “We thought years ago when we were scammed and went on the news that it would help others and keep him from doing it again to other families. He was charged and was put in jail and cannot believe that he would start to do it again. We are not surprised however.”

They added, “we hope that these families can find some kind of justice against him and be paid back what they are owed. We feel so much for these families.”