Category Archives: Boating

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.