Closed business still demands payments for broken hardware

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) — A business owner who had to shut down her business after the company’s state license was dropped is still collecting payments from customers who are stuck with broken equipment.

WBTV began investigating Elite Water Systems and its owner Melissa Hardin in 2020 when we received a call from James Werkheiser.

A flyer in the mail is what finally brought Elite Water Systems to Werkeiser’s front door.

“They told us our water was really bad, that we were drinking high levels of lead, nitrates and stuff like that,” Werkheiser said.

He purchased a water filtration system from Elite Water after their sales pitch, but Elite made a mistake and retested his water, not realizing that his system was already installed.

“I still had lead in my water, I still had nitrates, I still had high copper levels,” Werkheiser said.

WBTV spoke to more disgruntled customers and in April 2021, the State Board of Examiners of Plumbing suspended Elite’s plumbing license, saying the company had violated a dozen codes, including failing to obtain license and not properly connecting the water softener system.

But we kept hearing from Elite Water customers that their systems weren’t working.

“It hasn’t worked, I would say for a year,” said Enoch Williams.

“I just want my money back because it didn’t work out,” Sharee Pemberton said.

Pemberton and many other customers are still making payments because they secured financing to purchase the system.

In Pemberton’s case, it was funded by Sky Financial.

“I get a receipt from Sky Financial showing Melissa at Elite Water,” she said. “Why does this receipt have Melissa’s name on it when it is a receipt for a payment I made to Sky Financial?”

WBTV dug through state business records and found that Elite Water and Sky Financial are run by the same person, Melissa Hardin in Wilmington.

“It was like whoa, wait a minute, Sky Financial and Elite Water are one and the same,” Pemberton said.

Pemberton says that was when she decided to stop making payments to Sky. She says someone from Sky called her.

“I said, ‘Well, I’m not giving you any more money, let me talk to Melissa,’ and so when I asked to speak to Melissa, that phone clicked and he hung up,” said said Pemberton.

Not all Elite Water transactions have been funded by Sky. But clients like Pemberton and Williams still have to pay thousands of dollars.

In an email to WBTV, a representative for Elite wrote, “In April 2021, Elite Water ceased all business operations.”

However, state business records show an annual report filed for Elite on April 7, 2020.

WBTV asked if Sky was still receiving payments from Elite customers and they only replied that “Sky Financial has not made loans for several years”.

Pemberton purchased his system less than two years ago. And financing operations can last at least five years.

“I think they should be willing to give me my money back and come and get this mess out of my yard,” she said.

Customers tell WBTV when they call the manufacturer of the filtration system, they’re often told it’s an installation issue caused by Elite Water, which is the same reason the manufacturer’s license business has been revoked. If you are an Elite Water customer, email us at [email protected].

In an email to WBTV, an attorney for Elite wrote, “Puronics is well aware that there is a significant problem with their solar-powered water treatment systems, and that is the cause of these problems that customers may experience with their systems,” and that such problems extend beyond Elite Water’s warranty.

State business records show other companies registered as Hardin include Environmental Water, LLC, filed in April 2021, and Sky Home Innovations.

Another company called Wellness Organics, LLC lists its main office at the same Wilmington address owned by Hardin and listed for its other companies.

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