A former volunteer firefighter in Digne-les-Bains, in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, is accused of taking deposits for swimming pools and disappearing, without completing the work.
Complaints have been made by a dozen customers who ordered pools or pool equipment from him earlier this year but have been left empty-handed and out of pocket.
Families living in Robine-sur-Galabre, Javie, Brusquet and Digne-les-Bains have said that they paid deposits of up to €12,000 but received nothing in return.
Some of them were hoping to have a pool built, whereas others had paid for a liner or cover for an existing pool.
A customer in Robine told regional TV station BFM DICI that he paid the accused man €6,000 by cheque in the spring, after he came round to measure up and quote for the work to be carried out.
He said: "This cheque was cashed by the contractor, who never did the work. We approached the manufacturer, who told us that they had never received an order from this individual."
The accused’s customers are now working together to try to get their money back.
"We lodged a complaint and recently sent a letter to the prosecutor. The last we heard, he was in Corsica and has cut off his phone," one of them told the BFMTV news channel.
The customers also knew the man was a volunteer firefighter in Digne-les-Bains.
However, Colonel Christophe Péchoux, commander of the departmental fire and rescue service of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, could only confirm that "the person concerned is no longer involved in activities at the barracks and a suspension form has just been sent to him".
Public prosecutor of Digne-les-Bains, Rémy Avon, said: "An investigation is currently being carried out by the Digne gendarmerie regarding these matters”.