By Andrea Papagianis
Two weeks after being arrested, a former-Dana Point yacht broker, accused of stealing $1.5 million from area residents, pleaded not guilty to charges of elderly abuse and grand theft on Tuesday, days after his return to Orange County.
Edward Sellers Fitzgerald, 60, was extradited last Friday from Florida and booked into Santa Ana Central Jail, where he is currently being held on a $1.6 million bond, said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. He did not fight extradition.
Fitzgerald, who disappeared in 2009, is accused of using his former yacht brokerage, Dana Island Yacht Sales and Charters, to defraud 26 people. Between 2007 and 2009, he is believed to have secured loans from investors under the false pretense of purchasing and selling boats. He is accused of emptying his bank accounts and leaving without repaying his debts.
The one-time broker was arrested May 10 in Delray Beach, Fla. He was located in Florida after a joint investigation by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the county DA’s Bureau of Investigation found his California driver’s license was forfeited in the state, said Sean O’Brien, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, June 5 at 8:30 a.m. in Newport Beach.
Fitzgerald is charged with eight felony counts of theft from an elder, 19 felony counts of using untrue statements in the purchase or sale of a security, 17 felony counts of grand theft and 14 felony counts of issuing non-sufficient checks with the intent to defraud. If convicted of all counts, he faces a maximum sentence of 58 years in state prison.