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Fraudulent yacht broker gets jail for twelve months

by Western Morning/Sail-World Cruising on 18 Jun 2014
Buyer - and seller - beware .. .
Got'im! The warnings are there, published widely (even in Sail-World Cruising this week) about how to be careful when you are buying or selling a boat. Here's an example where they didn't get away with it. A crooked yacht broker in Britain has been jailed for swindling a seller out of her £43,000 luxury cruising boat.

Christopher Webster told the seller he was still trying to market the 24-foot boat for months after he had sold it for £8,000 less than the asking price and used the money to prop up his failing business.

He told the woman owner the boat was safely out of the water at his yard at Totnes, Devon, when he had delivered it in person to a buyer in Southern Spain after receiving £35,000 for it.

His business finally went into liquidation last September and just days afterwards he admitted the swindle for the first time.

Webster, 54, of Braddons Hill Road, Torquay, was jailed for 12 months at Exeter Crown Court.

Recorder Mr Michael Hubbard, QC, told him: 'When you took this boat into brokerage it was your intention to sell it for the owner but you got your business into financial difficulties and as a result you swindled this lady out of her money.

'You were in a position of trust. People who use yacht brokers have no recourse other than to rely on their honesty but you used this money for your own purposes and this woman has not received a penny.

'I’m afraid this is a very serious offence. I have little doubt you are an accomplished fraudster. You have no previous convictions but everything I have seen about this transaction leads to the view you knew exactly what you were doing.

'You also forged the customer’s signature on the bill of sale and to make matters worse you forged the signature of the witness as well.'

Lee Bremridge, prosecuting, said the woman took it to Webster in October 2010 and asked him to sell it for £43,000.

It did not sell and in June 2011 she dropped the price to £39,950 and told Webster not to accept anything less than £36,000. A month later he sold it for £35,000 and took it to Spain.

Mr Bremridge said: 'Some time later she decided to dispense with his services and decided to sell the boat privately and was told it was in storage at Totnes.

'It was not until September 2012 she was told it had been sold for less than her minimum price. She said it was not acceptable and asked for the boat to be returned but was told it was in Southern Spain with a new owner.

'She asked for details but he fobbed her off and told her the money had been lost within his company.'

Police found the bill of sale with her signature forged and when they traced the witness, who worked in a café near the boatyard, she also revealed hers had also been faked.
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