PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) – Five years after the start of a Better Call Behnken investigation, John Hartnett, the owner of defunct Gulf Coast Boat Sales, was arrested Wednesday afternoon and charged with two felony counts of money laundering and scheme to defraud.
His general manager, James Laden, was also arrested and charged with a scheme to defraud. The State Attorney’s Office claims victims lost around $800,000.
These arrests follow a Better Call Behnken investigation into why dozens of customers did business with the company and either ended up with boats they couldn’t use because they didn’t have titles or they were never paid for their boats that were sold as consignment deals. Some paid for new boats they never received.
When customers turned to Investigator Shannon Behnken, many said they were told this was a civil matter. But after multiple BCB reports, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office looked deeper.
A prosecutor for the state attorney’s office says this was a complicated case and that is why it took years to investigate.
Hartnett and Laden were given bonds of $350,000 and $100,000, respectively.