I-TEAM UPDATE: Victims speak after pool contractors sentenced to years
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The pool contractors at the center of a four-year-long investigation are behind bars, waiting to be transferred to a Georgia state prison.
Bruce and Heather Alford were sentenced each to 15 years. Both faced 27 felony charges connected to 27 unfinished pools in Columbia County.
Our Meredith Anderson first exposed their scam in 2018, and this truly shows the power of local investigative journalism.
It also shows the power victims can have. The Alfords almost got away with this because, at first, victims were dismissed.
Law enforcement said, ‘Oh, it’s not a crime. Just hire a lawyer and sue them.’
Families started finding each other on social media. Then the I-TEAM got involved, and suddenly a criminal pattern emerged.
Their sentence began immediately after Judge James Blanchard announced it. They were placed into handcuffs and taken into custody. But this story isn’t about how the Alfords lost their case. It’s about how their victims took on the system and won.
Full court video:
Heather Medlin: “Without social media, without your news coverage, we wouldn’t have made, had this happen.”
Four years ago, it almost didn’t happen.
Kelly Sherrill: “We kept being told this is just a civil matter. This is just a civil matter.
Instead of letting it go, they went to work, and one family became two families until they realized there were more than two dozen families. Many who told their stories to the I-TEAM told those same stories under oath.
One after another, families explained how the Alfords ripped them off. Among those, three families needed therapy pools, two for children, and one for a pastor’s wife with advanced Parkinson’s.
Dorcus Powell: “They were preying on people with sick family members, they were preying on people, you know, that served in the military, and that’s just not right.
Considering the Department of Justice estimates only 15 percent of all victims of fraud report the crimes to law enforcement, the victims are already in the minority. So filling this courtroom spoke volumes.
Sherrill: “I think he saw the picture of what Bruce and Heather had laid out the entire time they were in business, and they were crooks.”
Missy Bonsack: “Are you kidding me? Did this really just happen to this many people? And so I think the power was in the numbers.”
Twenty-seven families banded together, not just in court, but in our stories. And now that they have justice--
Medlin: “I definitely feel like overall, it was a big victory.”
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They’re showing other victims of other scams to not be afraid or embarrassed to speak up and speak out.
Powell: “I hope it is a lesson to other people out there that think they’re gonna get away with taking people’s money.”
You absolutely can be heard. We’re told it will be at least a week maybe even two before Bruce and Heather Alford are transferred to prison.
Still no word on a date for their restitution hearing. They will join via video from prison to learn how much money they will have to pay each of their 27 victims.
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