Boats Stolen? - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Boats Stolen?

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Several South Florida boat owners handed their boats to a dealer to sell for them. Now their boats are gone and they don't have the cash for them. What can they do? It's why one man contacted Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser

WSVN -- Its been said a million times, let me make it a million and one. The happiest days of a boat owner's life are the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. Not true says Chris Hazleton.

Chris Hazleton: "I was sadden by losing my boat. Like I said, we live on the water for a reason, we bought it for a reason, I like to enjoy the boat."

Chris had a 24-foot Robalo. A boat his kids enjoyed.

Chris Hazleton: "So in the summer time we are taking them in the inland or restaurants in the winter we are seeing all the decorations people put in their backyard."

Chris convinced his family to sell the older boat and get a nicer one. So Chris took the Robalo to a boat dealer in Pompano Beach to sell for him.

Chris Hazleton: "The general transaction is you give the boat to a consignment shop. They have it for a certain period of time. If they sell it, they give you a certain agreed price you already agreed on."

That was in September of last year. In November, the manager told Chris they had a buyer willing to pay $16,000 for his boat.

Chris Hazleton: "It was for a gentleman who wanted it for a place in Panama. Fish camp or something he had down there."

When Chris didn't hear from the boat dealer for a month, he went to their business. His boat was gone.

Chris Hazleton: "By the middle of December, it became obvious in between my trips that they didn't have the money or at least it wasn't forthcoming. Right off the bat it looked to me like they had no intention of paying me."

Chris was then told the dealership had been sold to a new owner after the old owner got sick and couldn't run the business. That manager who worked for the old owner said he would get Chris his money. But he never did.

So Chris called his insurance company and the Broward Sheriff's Office to report his boat stolen.

Chris Hazleton: "I think the law enforcement, the detective agency has been very sympathetic. The insurance company is very sympathetic, but they are somewhat reluctant to file it as an actual stolen boat."

If the detectives conclude Chris's boat was stolen, his insurance company has agreed to pay for it. But if they determine this is a civil dispute, Chris faces a long court battle.

Chris Hazleton: "I don't think there is any hope in seeing the boat again. As I can tell it's been shipped out of the country and gone. They need the boat to be declared stolen by some agency."

Well Howard, Chris' boat is gone, and so is his money. But has a crime been committed?

Howard Finkelstein: "It's not as simple as it may appear because someone at the dealership could have made some bad business decisions, or not been paid by the person who has the boat. But if there was no intention to pay Chris, that's a crime. The tough part is for a detective to prove that. And if this happened to several other boat owners, it makes the detectives' job easier."

Christian Tremblay: "No, I don't got nothing to do with the old business."

We then talked to the new owner of Boats 4 Less, who said he had nothing to do with what had happened there before, he said he had told Broward detectives he had heard from several other boat owners like Chris who left their boats at the dealership before he bought the business, and their boats disappeared as well.

Christian Tremblay: "I tried to help the people that need help in the process that their boat is gone, and tried to help who I could help."

After investigating, the Broward Sheriffs Office concluded Chris and 10 other owners whose boats disappeared were the victims of grand theft.

Chris Hazleton: "My insurance company Boat US has been fantastic and they paid out in full."

Chris got his check for $14,000 and is now ready to put another boat behind his house.

Chris Hazleton: "We're going to be looking at buying a new boat for us and the kids."

Whoever has the boat, doesn't have the title to it. Chris still has it. And who is responsible for the stolen boats? This week the Broward State attorney will meet with BSO detectives to determine if there is enough evidence to charge someone. We will keep an eye on it.

Troubles got you feeling adrift? Want things to go swimmingly? Contact us. We can't captain a ship. But we are a steal. Cause we wont let you sink.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com

Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN

Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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