Online transactions can go sour. A 35-year-old boat listed for sale on Craigslist looked like a cherry in the photos, the buyer said, but when it arrived at the purchaser’s door step, it looked more like a lemon.
A North Carolina man claims he bought a Marco Island man’s sales pitch hook, line and sinker.
Albert S. Rhodes, 54, bought the 22-foot, 1975 Aquasport from the boat’s lifelong owner Charles C. Allen, Jr., of Marco Island and Cape Cod, Mass.
Rhodes paid the 77-year-old $10,000 after receiving photos of the boat in near-perfect condition via e-mail. Rhodes claims the “old man” hustled him.
“He was the age my dad would be. You tend to trust folks like that,” said Rhodes.
Allen claimed that Rhodes was advised of the vessel’s condition, police reported.
The buyer and seller jointly hired R&W Transport based in North Carolina for $500 each. Driver Richard Blair hauled the boat 800 miles from Marco to Wilmington, N.C. in early April.
Blair noticed some dings, but didn’t think much of it, he said. He wasn’t asked to inspect it.
Blair was given pictures of the boat via his cell phone, but Blair said he was not able to view them in advance, which he was told was OK.
He met Allen at the dock, picked up the boat and was back on his way to North Carolina.
“When I got there, Scott (Rhodes) noticed quickly that the boat had some serious problems,” Blair said.
The boat’s hull had been smashed so extensively that it was useless, Rhodes said.
“It was such a sloppy, poor repair,” Rhodes said. “It looks like a kid did it.”
Rhodes called Allen right away to say he was sending the boat back, he said.
Allen wouldn’t accept the boat or return any of the money, police reported.
There was a verbal right of refusal, Rhodes said.
“It’s my own stupidity,” he said. “I should have got it in writing.”
In an attempt to learn what might have happened to the boat, Rhodes said he contacted dealers on the island that deal with the Mercury brand engines like the one used on the boat.
Rose Marco River Marina’s service manager told him that he recalled a man in his late 40s who bought parts for a boat he dropped from his father’s boat lift that he needed to repair quickly because his dad had just sold the boat, Rhodes said.
Marina parts manager Randy Simmons confirmed that he someone had dropped a boat and bought parts to fix it. He never got the cash buyer’s name, however, because the parts were in-stock.
Rhodes then contacted the Marco Island police, who advised Rhodes it was a civil issue.
Allen told police that “he doesn’t know what Mr. Rhodes is speaking of,” per the police report.
Attempts by the Daily News to reach Allen were unsuccessful. His Marco Island phone is no longer in-service; the hurricane shutters on his Coronado Court home are closed and a phone number listed for Charles Allen, Jr. in Cotuit Bay of Cape Cod, is also out of service.
“The richie, rich split,” Rhodes said.
The boat can be repaired for $9,000, he reported.
It could cost Rhodes thousands of dollars to get back thousands of dollars.
“I don’t even want to look at it. It’s nauseating,” Rhodes said.
It’s difficult to prove whether this was intentional defrauding or a misunderstanding, said Marco Island crime prevention officer Paul Keys.
Traveling to see the product or hiring someone is well worth it, Keys advise.
Would-be scams can be avoided by dealing locally with people you can meet in person, Craigslist advises.
“Follow this one simple rule and you will avoid 99% of the scam attempts on Craigslist,” the site reads.