Once featured on HGTV, pool builder accused of swindling customers
Despite dozens of lawsuits, Winnipeg's Kurt Wittin is still selling pools
Dozens of Kurt Wittin's customers have called him a scammer, a conman, a snake oil salesman — and far worse. They claim to be out tens of thousands of dollars each.
The Winnipeg man is facing — and has lost — lawsuits from across North America. But it hasn't stopped him. In spite of all this, he landed a prime spot for his prefabricated pool business on a popular HGTV show Fixer to Fabulous in 2022.
"That is exactly what got me to sign a contract with him," says Winnie Lin. She paid Wittin $27,000 to build a pool out of a metal shipping container and ship it to her in Prince George, B.C.
CBC News contacted the trucking company Wittin told Lin he would use. A representative said the firm hauled two pools for Wittin more than a year ago and never received payment. The company says it, too, is owed more than $20,000 from Wittin, but does not expect to ever recover it.
In signing contracts and emails, Wittin has used slight variations of his name: Kurt Wittin, Kurt Witten and Kurt Witton. Doing so has made it more difficult for customers to locate reviews.
His company names have also changed and have included Kustom Container Builders; Seventeen Pools; 204 Container Homes & Pools, Swiss Coast Pools and Rockstar Entertainment.
Wittin mentions the HGTV program in his marketing materials and on his website, something customers across Canada and the U.S. said was instrumental in helping them decide to use his services.
One customer in Texas named Susan said she knew of many customers who'd lost their sizable deposits and still never received a pool. CBC News agreed not to use her last name because of the nature of work she does for the U.S. government.
"I can think of any number of people who would like to lay hands on this man. And I'm not threatening violence, but he has screwed over a lot of people. And his day is going to come," she said.
She paid Wittin $27,000 US and has received neither a pool, nor a refund.
Customer facing cancer surgeries out $30K
Facing a difficult diagnosis in 2020, Chantelle Delion, of Kelowna, B.C., wanted a backyard pool for her three children while she faced multiple cancer surgeries.
She found Wittin's Seventeen Pools online and said he was responsive, engaging and seemed knowledgeable. From her hospital bed, she negotiated a price of $45,000 including delivery — and the family opened a line of credit to pay for it. They gave Wittin a $30,000 deposit.
Nearly two years later, the pool she had expected in 10 weeks is nowhere to be seen.
"There's never been any remorse that I've seen anyways. If anything, it's been him blaming us," she said. "Kurt knew what I'd been going through that year … it was rough."
She eventually sued Wittin to recoup the money and pay off her line of credit. She won, but Wittin has only paid back about $1,000, through a wage garnishment.
Delion contacted Wittin again to inform him she planned to speak with CBC journalists.
He quickly responded by email: "What kind of commitment would you like so this can be put on hold?"
She responded that she'd heard him promise to repay the money many times but had never received it, so she planned to go ahead with a media interview.
He responded again: "If you wanted to be paid off you don't damage the one thing that's trying to make money to pay you."
"The inference is: stay quiet if you want your money," Delion told CBC during the subsequent interview.
Meeting Wittin at his Manitoba business
Wittin's business address has changed multiple times, and process servers attempting to deliver legal documents have been among those facing challenges in finding him.
But Wittin did agree to meet a CBC crew at a new address in Headingley, Man.
He acknowledged offering to pay Chantelle Delion if she agreed not to speak to journalists.
When asked if he viewed that as attempted bribery, Witten said he's "just trying to stop the train so I can get things figured out."
The new business location did have shipping containers in various stages of being converted into pools. Wittin showed one complete pool which he said had been ordered in the last six months and was set to be shipped out in days. He did not explain how pools ordered seven years ago still had not been built or shipped.
Wittin said the failure to make deliveries or offer refunds was the result of a business partnership gone bad, COVID and supply issues. Disappointed customers say they've heard the same explanations for years.
"Moving forward, I have to make it right," Wittin told CBC News. "I just fell. And I got back up and now I gotta make it right. I'm hoping this year will be that year so I can clear everything 'cause it has been bothering me."
When asked how much he owed customers, Wittin said he did not know. But legal claims against him in the province of Manitoba alone total more than half a million dollars.
Records show Wittin had previously declared bankruptcy.
Wittin customer called HGTV show producers
Stacey Bronson is out $29,000 after putting down a deposit for one of Wittin's pools in July 2021. After more than a year of waiting, she discovered his Seventeen Pools business was to be featured on the HGTV show.
Bronson says she contacted the production company that produced the program for the HGTV network.
"They told me they were not going to feature him … but they did show his logo. It's really frustrating."
CBC News reached out to HGTV for comment but never heard back.
Not the first business to face complaints
More than a decade ago, Wittin was the CEO of Rockstar Entertainment, an event promoter accused of collecting donations for a Firefighters Burn Fund and never handing over that money.
In 2013, some customers who purchased booths from Wittin for a health and wellness show complained to CTV News in Winnipeg that they didn't receive a refund when the event never happened.
Wittin has previously faced criminal charges on an unrelated issue — though he was found not guilty at trial. He has never faced criminal charges connected to his pool business.
Many of his customers believe he is a fraudster and have attempted to file complaints with police, but have been told it isn't a criminal issue.
"I went to the RCMP," said Winnie Lin. "They said I should just go to the court because it seemed like a civil issue to them. So I guess the police are not doing anything about it."
CBC News contacted the RCMP in Manitoba, and they responded "it is not our practice to confirm or deny who or what may or may not be the subject of an investigation unless charges are laid."
Chantelle Delion is slowly paying off the line of credit for a pool she still doesn't have and expects never to receive.
She wants to move on, but is making efforts to ensure potential customers know about her experience, and that of dozens of Wittin's customers across North America.
"Sadly there's a lot of us and they keep coming. I think that's the most upsetting part. It continues to happen."
- A previous version of this may have left the impression Kurt Wittin was bankrupt at the time of publication. In fact, he had declared bankruptcy in 2011 and that was later discharged. The story has also been updated to reflect that Chantelle and Tim Delion gave Wittin $30,000 of the negotiated $45,000 price.May 05, 2023 5:48 PM ET