Byline: Ambrosia Brody
SANTA ANA — Ed Fitzgerald, a former Dana Point yacht broker who disappeared in 2009 — along with more than $1.5 million reportedly owed to 26 people — was arraigned May 28 in Orange County. He pleaded not guilty to 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 insufficient funds checks with the intent to defraud.
If convicted, Fitzgerald faces a maximum of 58 years in state prison.Fitzgerald, 60, was arrested May 10 in Delray Beach, Fla. by the Delray Beach Police Department, on a warrant from Orange County. He was returned to California and is currently being held in Orange County Central Jail, on $1.6 million bail.
Fitzgerald owned Dana Island Yacht Sales and Charters from 2007 to July 2009. He is accused of defrauding 26 people in various investment schemes related to the buying and selling of yachts.
Boaters alerted Orange County Sheriff’s Department officers the week of July 20, 2009, when Fitzgerald mysteriously disappeared. At that time, officers also received allegations that money was missing from several clients’ trust accounts, and that advance payments for moorings and boat slips Fitzgerald had reportedly received had not been made to the county.
Fitzgerald’s clients reported losses in excess of $2 million.
According to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Fitzgerald is accused of defrauding his victims by securing loans from friends and acquaintances under the false pretense of purchasing boats for resale. He is accused of failing to purchase boats as promised, using new investors to pay off previous investors and stealing the money to pay his personal expenses.
In some cases, Fitzgerald is accused of selling yachts on behalf of clients, embezzling the sale funds from his escrow account and either failing to return the funds to the victims or issuing checks to the victims that were returned by the bank for insufficient funds. He is also accused of stealing deposits made by victims for the purchase of boats and failing to either secure the sale or return the deposit, according to the district attorney’s office.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Sean O’Brien of the White Collar Crime Team is prosecuting this case.