NewsPinellas County


Owner of Gulf Coast Boat Sales and BeachCat Boat LLC arrested on fraud and money laundering charges

Posted at 9:34 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 05:14:21-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla — A boat dealership owner is behind bars after defrauding $800,000 from victims, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff.

Detectives arrested John Harnett 67, and James Laden 39, for scheme to defraud and money laundering.

According to detectives, Hartnett owns Gulf Coast Boat Sales, located at 37517 US Highway 19 North in Palm Harbor. Laden is listed as the general manager of the business. The boat dealership sold new boats from third-party manufacturers, used boats, and consigned boats that would be left by their owners. The boats would be sold by the dealership for an agreed-upon price, with a commission going to the dealership.

Detectives say Hartnett also owned BeachCat Boat LLC, a boat manufacturing business, located at 120 Pickney Street in Oldsmar. The business specializes in the manufacturing of new pontoon boats and sells them directly to the public through dealers, including Gulf Coast Boat Sales.

"From May of 2015 to late 2017, 56 complaints were received by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office from individuals and businesses, stating they were systematically defrauded of their property through fraudulent pretenses and willful misrepresentations. This resulted in a monetary loss of approximately $800,000."-PCSO

Detectives said some victims provided their boats and or trailers to be sold on consignment but never got paid or got their property back.

Some victims gave Gulf Coast Boat Sales money to purchase a new boat but never received a boat or their money back. Detectives say some of the victims were not able to register their newly purchased boats due to never receiving the titles after purchase.

Through various investigative techniques, detectives discovered Hartnett took the victim's money from the Gulf Coast Boat business account and illegally deposited it into his personal account by funneling it through the operating account for BeachCat Boat LLC. The total funds laundered from all of the victims exceeded $100,000 in a 12 month period.

On April 6, Hartnett and Laden were arrested and charged with scheme to defraud. Hartnett is also charged with money laundering.