By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The attorney general filed five counts of felonious embezzlement against a Norman man Thursday after he allegedly took money to build in-ground swimming pools but did not finish any of the projects.
In addition to the embezzlement charges Stephan Edgar Cook, 39, also was charged with a pattern of criminal offenses. According to the probable cause affidavit, Cook embezzled somewhere between $300,000 and $370,000 from several different people in Cleveland and McClain counties.
The individuals signed contracts with Cook and made a series of payments to him or his company, Cabanas Plus, to build the swimming pools. None of the projects were finished and had to be finished by other pool companies, the affidavit said.
The cases reported began as early as August 2011. The most recent case was in February 2012. In many of the cases, Cook would try to get the individuals to give him more money by telling them he had an employee that was embezzling money, the affidavit said.
One couple questioned why charges weren’t filed against the “employee” embezzling funds, Cook admitted to embezzling the funds himself.
“Cook admitted he had actually used the money to fund his alcohol and drug problem,” the affidavit said.
Another family that paid a total of $106,800 to Cook declined to loan him anymore money after eight months of payments. When it became obvious he was not going to finish their pool, they researched other installers and saw that the pool that initially enticed them to contract with Cook was designed and installed by another company, the document states.
Other couples who contracted with Cook lost around $50,000 and $23,000.
When a review was conducted of bank records for Cook and Cabanas Plus, it showed that deposits were made with customer funds intended for the purchase of materials and labor to construct the pools as contracted.
“The funds were generally used by Cook for his personal use and not as intended by the customers,” the affidavit said.
An enhancement page shows that Cook has previously been convicted of two counts of possession of a controlled dangerous substance and maintaining a dwelling used to keep or sell a controlled dangerous substance.
Cook was convicted of the crimes in 1998 and 2002 in Cleveland and Oklahoma counties.