Better Call Behnken

Consignment boat disaster: Man buys boat, insurance company claims it was stolen

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) - Claude Bahrenburg paid more than $17,000 for a 2007 Chaparrel 214 Sunesta boat. He bought it through consignment at Gulf Coast Boat Sales in Palm Harbor in the spring of 2017.

Bahrenburg pays more than $400 a month to store and maintain the boat. But without the title, he can't register it, which means he can't insure it or use and enjoy the boat.  

Bahrenburg is one of more than 40 victims who purchased or sold boats through Gulf Coast Boat Sales and were left high and dry. Our Better Call Behnken investigation began nearly two years ago.

Customers say they either sold a boat and did not receive the proceeds or they bought a boat and can't get the title. 

Bahrenburg tried to contact the seller of the boat and found that they had reported the boat as stolen to their insurance company, Progressive Insurance Company.

Progressive paid the claim and took the title to the boat. 

Progressive sent Bahrenburg a letter that said, "Progressive is the legal title owner of the 2007 Chaparrell 214 Sunesta. We do not believe you have a legal right to the title of the vessel."

Bahrenburg is stuck caring for the boat, but he's unsure if he'll ever get to legally use it.

"Progressive has never asked the for boat," he said.

"The people who consigned the boat have never asked for the boat. The investigating officer has never asked for the boat. If they thought the boat was stolen and all of them have known that I have the boat, why haven't they asked for the boat?"

Better Call Behnken reached out to Progressive and was told they'll look into the situation, but we haven't heard back with a statement yet. 

Meanwhile, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the state attorney's office is reviewing Gulf Coast Boat Sales for possible criminal charges. 

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