How Florida Boat Scammers Work

10542970_746554345403436_5224504145367532819_oI kept telling myself it would not be right to posts about this, but I can’t help myself. We’ve been scammed.

The RS posted our 1984 36 ft. cabin cruiser Sea Ray for sale on Craig’s list. We had several inquiries and a few who wanted to pay cash. The RS took the first cash offer. The original price was $11,500.

After some haggling, he came down to $9500. The buyer insisted on a marine survey, which is customary. The surveyor told the buyer that we had a lien on the boat. The RS planned to pay off the lien with the proceeds, which is customary. The RS also dropped the price on the boat by another $300. for things the surveyor found that needed fixing.

The buyer, Steve Shelton, gave the RS $1086.86 down payment to hold the boat. He wanted a notary present when the paperwork was signed. The boat was located nearly four hours from our home in Orlando, south in Lee County in Ft. Myers at the RS’s friend’s house, Jeff. Jeff’s wife wanted the boat gone ASAP. The RS drove back down there, where the buyer and the notary and the RS signed a bill of sale.

The RS had told the man he needed a money order made out to the bank or a cashier’s check, but there was a lot of commotion and gyrations. The man had his wife, daughter, son-in-law and a kid with him. They were all complaining and accusing my husband of being dishonest for not telling them about the lien. That’s why my husband agreed to take the personal check.

The buyer wanted to pay the RS the balance with a personal check, which he gave the RS. That was on a Saturday and the guy wanted to take the boat Sunday morning.

When he got home, I turned him around and told him, no…he needed a money order or a cashier’s check or they would have to wait until they got one to take the boat. The daughter had wanted to take the boat Saturday night and wire the money on Monday morning to our bank.

The RS drove back down there in the middle of the night, four more hours, in order to be there when they got there Sunday morning.

Upon arriving, he saw the batteries were dead, drained by a malfunctioning bilge pump. The boat would not be safe to operate without one, so Jeff and the RS set about correcting the problems: recharging the batteries and replacing the bilge pump. The RS was working on forty-eight hours with no sleep and 1600 miles under his belt.

When the man arrived with his son-in-law, wife, daughter and now two kids, the daughter was screaming that the RS had been dishonest again, and not told them about the problem with the boat. The RS explained that he was there to fix the problems and that he needed a money order or cashier’s check before they took the boat. On the Bill of Sale, the RS stipulated that a balance was owed of $8113.18 to be made payable to our bank and our account.

The daughter was upset because her father and his wife had been living with her and she was supposed to get two more foster children the next day and her father needed to be out of her house and onto the boat which he planned to live aboard. She and the man’s wife went to purchase money orders which they said they bought a Walmart and mailed to our bank. They showed the RS the receipt stubs but did not give him copies.

By five o’clock, the boat was repaired and the two men rode away from the dock with the boat toward Sarasota. The two women and two children left in a car.

Three weeks later, our bank still hasn’t received the money/money orders.

The RS sent him an email requesting copies of the money orders that were supposedly purchased at Walmart and mailed to our bank because the man won’t answer his phone. He claims he can’t hear it. They want full control of the money and refuse to share the MO numbers or copies with us. Here is a copy of the text the man sent back:

“I called the bank to make sure they were not cashed yet. I told them I needed those funds put back in my account ASAP if the loan company did not cash them yet. I also called your loan company to check on them. I got the info from your loan company to do a direct wire transfer and that is what I will do. I just need my bank to check on them and make those funds available for me to transfer. I will take care of this this week. My bank said they should know something Monday. It will be taken care of, not sure what happen. I need this paid so I can get the lien off the boat.”

He still wouldn’t provide the requested documentation. We notified the FBI, as this a documented vessel with Homeland Security, and we could not get any local authorities to take any action. The FBI wrote back demanding that the local authorities take action or we were to notify the District Attorney. Suddenly, the Coast Guard is willing to post a note on our title and the Ft. Myers, Lee County authorities are ready to take a report, which has now been filed. We hired an attorney who saw our boat in Sarasota Bay at an anchorage where derelicts live aboard vessels. The Sarasota police weren’t able to find it.

At the attorney’s suggestion, we sent another email to Steve, the buyer:


“I greatly appreciate you responding yesterday, January 4th, 2015, to my December 29th, 2014 email requesting copies of the money orders purchased as payment for our 1984 Sea Ray. You continue to fail to produce the requested documents. As this transaction took place on December 7th, the date you took possession of the boat, and my bank has not yet received payment; I did hire the services of an attorney. He has spoken to legal authorities and advised me to pursue a felony theft by deception case IF the $8113.18 owed is not wired to my bank, USAA, as per their instructions. The bank has indicated to me that you did inquire, but they have not received payment. You have until the end of this week, Friday, January 9th, 2015, to make full payment or this matter will be pursued through legal channels. You either return the boat, or make full payment immediately. I expect to hear from you within 24 hours regarding your intent.”

So far, we haven’t heard back.

So this is where my head has been all week.

We should know something by the end of the week.

Waiting is hell.

61 thoughts on “How Florida Boat Scammers Work

  1. Good luck. It certainly seems like he has tried to scam you. Generally speaking, if you buy something, you have to pay for it sooner than a month later. 😉 Hope this is resolved for you soon.


    1. No, Mark, it doesn’t. Sarasota Bay is a BIG body of water and the authorities are only going to invest so much in recovering our boat. The guy doesn’t even have a valid address anymore. Just his daughter’s address and she is as guilty as he is. *sigh*


    1. You do That!!! We could use all the help we can get and Ike’s just the man. I’m seriously considering going public by the end of the week if this guy hasn’t paid. I don’t know what that would entail, but we need some support. Dealing with law enforcement has been the worst. They wouldn’t even open a case until the FBI got involved and they wouldn’t have if the boat hadn’t been a documented vessel with Homeland Security. Lee County still hasn’t assigned a detective yet. Sheesh!


  2. Wow. That sounds fishy from beginning to end. Also like something out of one of John W. Howell’s books. For some reason, I keep wondering where the daughter fits into this. Sounds like she was the loudest and angriest.


    1. The guy played stupid the whole time. His wife and daughter were doing all the yelling and accusing. Jeff and his wife just wanted them gone. The RS was just in a bad position. He was trying to fix the bilge pump and recharge the batteries and deal with the daughter and wife while the two men were going back and forth to the gas station and loading the boat. They were determined to take it THAT day. And they did, without paying for it.


      1. As weird as it sounds, I remember similar stuff in retail. Women can get a higher pitch in voice, so they’re used to cause a scene. Meanwhile, the men do whatever they need the distraction for.


      2. That’s what Greg felt like was going on. The women were squawking and making all kinds of noise. The kids were screaming and running around chasing the dog all unruly. It was just chaos and Greg and Jeff were trying to repair the boat, while the men kept going back and forth to the gas station. What a mess.


      3. The guy played stupid the whole time like the daughter had to be in control of everything. She was the one making all the crazy accusations. She probably just takes in foster kids for the additional income. Poor kids. I knew people like that growing up.


      4. That crossed my mind when you mentioned she was getting too more. Though it could be that she’s in control of everything and kicked them out. It’s entirely possible that he isn’t the brains, but you’re more than likely right that he was playing stupid. My writer mind keeps toying with the other possibilities.


      5. All I know is that he has until Friday to make good or there will be a warrant issued for his arrest…he can duke it out with his daughter if need be, but somebody is going to jail.


      6. He was planning to live aboard the boat, so I guess his wife is with him, floating around Sarasota Bay somewhere while WE continue to make payments with interest on their humble abode.


      7. To do that would just ruin our credit and put us into default. He’s banking that we’ll pay off the note to avoid liability. As it stands right now…whatever that boat is involved in, drug smuggling, theft, accidents…we are registered owners and liable.


      1. I’m just afraid this guy is going to act all offended when he responds to the Rs’s email and be even more reluctant to submit the funds just to be a mean ass. We’ll see.


    1. I gotcha. I wish it was fictional. I have two more stories outlined, but I could see a third develop out of this. We went over to Sarasota Bay Saturday, but the wind was fierce and finding this guy just wasn’t in the cards. Brandi and Richard would find a way. I’d love to be able to put a Lojack on that boat until we get this settled. The attorney said he knows a guy who could do it, but that would cost us. Argh! So frustrating.


  3. Thank you for taking the time to share this fiasco with us, Susan. I’m sorry for you and RS. The daughter sounds like a loon and her father a shyster. I hope they get what’s coming to them. It makes you wonder if this is their first time scamming…probably not. Good luck and keep us posted.


    1. I don’t know about the father. Part of me thinks he’s just plain dumb and she’s the brains…but he does have our boat. They said he and his wife were from Ohio and just moved down here. He claimed he had never owned or captained a vessel, but he insisted on leaving up the ICW at dark for a four or five hour journey. They’re not as dumb as they were acting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your readers sympathize, and some can even empathize. Golly, this is one story that HAS to have a happy ending.

    One happy thought to you: Thank you for making the top 5 list in “Most Active Commenters” in 2014. You rock, Susan!


  5. OMG what a nightmare! I just cannot believe people! What is the world coming to? I hope one way or another, it straightens out soon for you. That is an extremely stressful situation to have to deal with; and I agree about waiting. UGH.


  6. You know, I hit the “like” button and then un-hit it. There is NO way to like this story. So, so, so sorry to hear you’ve been victimized by these creeps. One thing that’s weird is how public they were. They gave you their names, email, addresses, etc. How did they expect this to play out?


    1. They never respond to phone calls, ever. Everything is communicated through email and texts. The man is no longer at the address he gave. He’s floating around Sarasota Bay somewhere, while we continue to make payments with interest on the boat. He’s pretending not to know what happened, stalling. Who knows where he plans to go?


  7. Yikes! How horrible and stressful for you and RS! I hope it is all resolved quickly–and in a good way for you. Not wishing anything good for the scammers, although I feel sorry for their kids.

    ( At least all this gives you good material for a future book.) 🙂

    I’m sure you will keep us all informed! All best. BIG HUGS!


    1. Thanks Merril. I wish it would resolve quickly, but just found out the place he bought money orders won’t give him a refund for sixty-five days. The way I see it. That’s not OUR problem. But he will probably get away with making us wait.


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