Lowndes pool installer faces multiple charges

Sep. 1—VALDOSTA — A Valdosta businessman facing 14 felony counts in Lowndes County involving unfinished swimming pool installations has come under scrutiny in Thomas County as well.

Jerry Maxwell "Max" Ward Jr., owner of Quality Companies Inc., turned himself in at the Lowndes County Jail last month, according to a statement from the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office. He was released on bond later that day. The 14 charges involved conversion of payments for real property improvements.

As of Aug. 24, the sheriff's office had received 17 complaints about converting payments made for the installation of in-ground pools to other uses than to pay for labor, services or paying subcontractors, according to the statement.

"Several victims had no work accomplished at their residences but all had their deposit checks cashed," according to the statement, and people were refused reimbursement.

Some people found liens had been filed against them by subcontractors who said they had not been paid, according to the statement.

The Thomas County Sheriff's Office said in a post to its Facebook page that one of its investigators is handling multiple cases involving the suspect and asked county residents who may have done business with him to call the dispatch office at (229) 225-4151.

Ward also faces complaints in civil court; at least one lawsuit against him has been filed by a Lowndes County couple claiming they paid more than $40,000 for an in-ground swimming pool installation in February. At the end of June ground was broken on the pool but Ward never returned and eventually told the couple he couldn't finish the project, the lawsuit claims.

"Defendant failed to disclose that he had financial hardships and failed to pay suppliers which caused him to fail to perform under said contract," according to the lawsuit.

A filing for bankruptcy for Ward claims almost $200,000 worth of heavy equipment was repossessed from him in July, including two backhoe loaders, three compact track loaders and two compact excavators.

Ward could not be reached for comment.

Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.