court

The former owner of a local pool company accused of stealing from his clients pleaded guilty in state district court Friday to reduced charges.

Prosecutor Hope Buford said that from Jan. 1, 2014, to June 1, 2015, Fabio Cantu, 63, of Sulphur, took payments from customers, misapplied the funds and didn’t complete the jobs.

She said many of the victims used their life savings for the projects and incurred extra expenses to complete or cover up what was done by Cantu, a contractor who operated Aquatic Pools & Spas LLC in Sulphur.

“We don’t have the exact restitution amount,” said Buford. “But it is in the tens of thousands.”

Defense attorney Ralph Williams asked Judge Clayton Davis to place Cantu on probation so he could have time to pay back the victims. Buford said the victims deserved closure and that Cantu should serve jail time.

Cantu, who turned himself in to authorities in June 2015, was facing two counts of theft $750-$5,000, one count of theft $1,500 or more, one count of theft $5,000-$25,000 and two counts of theft $25,000 or more.

He pleaded guilty Friday instead to six counts of misapplication of payments by a contractor.

As part of the plea, prosecutors dismissed two other separate charges Cantu was facing — one count of worthless checks $500-$1,500 and one count of worthless checks under $500.

Davis sentenced Cantu to five years on each count to run concurrently. He also ordered Cantu to pay the maximum fine of $500 on each charge.