Vol. 2, Issue 32, August 7-13, 2009
By Nathan Wright
The search continues for a Dana Point yacht broker who is accused of more than $2 million in fraud against his company’s investors. Ed Fitzgerald left town two weeks ago and hasn’t been heard from since, leaving in his wake dozens of victims who now fear they’ve been ripped off.
“We don’t know if he’s alive or dead,” said Sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino. “He’s a person of interest and we’d very much like to talk to him.”
On Thursday, July 30 deputies searched Fitzgerald’s home in Laguna Beach and his Dana Island Yachts business in the Dana Point Harbor. “Business records and computers were taken,” said Amormino.
Fitzgerald has been accused of numerous frauds, including a Ponzi scheme involving short-term yacht sales investments with promises of quick returns.
Other victims include boaters who rented slips from Dana Island Yachts. The yacht brokerage and chartering company leased 20 slips from the county, ranging in size from 35 to 65 feet. The lease agreements for these slips were terminated earlier this month after the yacht company failed to pay rent.
Some of these slips were subleased by boaters, who now might be out any advance rentals they paid to Dana Island Yachts and without a space for their boat. Unfortunately, slips of that size—estimated at 700 in the Dana Point Harbor—have a waiting list of 1,400, and the yacht company’s slips will be offered to the boaters waiting in line, not to those subleasing.
“We’ve provided allowances to those [subleasing the slips], allowing them up to six months to stay in the slips while they seek out other accommodations,” said Dana Point Marina Company general manager Doug Whitlock. “They will be offered to the people at the top of the waiting list.”
Whitlock said that Dana Island Yachts legally was only allowed to charge rents equal to what the county charges—$622 a month for the 35-foot space to $1,378 for the 65-foot size—and should not have been charging boaters rents in advance. “The leases for the slips are month-to-month, and it would be dishonest, I think, to accept more than a month’s rent in advance for the slips.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department continues its investigation and is still looking for Fitzgerald.