Fraud investigation at Surrey boat dealership leads to 33 charges: RCMP
VANCOUVER -- Nearly three dozen charges have been laid against the owner of a Surrey boat dealership, Mounties say, after an investigation that lasted 20 months.
The RCMP says it began an investigation into Breakwater Marine in June 2019 after getting several reports alleging fraud.
On Aug. 8, 2019, a search warrant was executed on the property on Fraser Highway, leading to about a dozen boats being seized and one person being arrested.
Mounties say there were more than 100 victims allegedly defrauded out of about $1.8 million in total.
"Just the scope of having over 100 victims come forward was a lot of time and effort put in by our investigative team and also in partnership with some other federal and provincial partners," RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Elenore Sturko told reporters Friday.
"We know that (for) a lot of the victims of this, it was quite emotional, and they went through a lot. So we heard from many, many victims just that this was very impactful for them."
On Thursday, police say Aaron Fell, 50, was charged with 30 counts of fraud-related charges and three counts of theft of property.
"This was a complex investigation that required our team to sort and examine a significant number of business and personal records and documentation in order to gather all the evidence," said Sgt. Ryan Forbes of the Surrey RCMP Financial Crimes Unit, in a news release.
"Thanks to our federal and provincial partners who assisted with this investigation."
In 2019, some former customers told CTV News they were out tens of thousands of dollars.
Robert Studimen alleged at the time that when he signed a consignment contract with the dealership, the dealer later sold his boat without his signature, and without giving him proceeds from the transaction.
Studimen said he confirmed the sale through the dealer’s accounting department, and was still waiting for $20,000.
Another customer, Nick Wu, alleged when he brought his boat in for repair, it was later sold without his knowledge. In 2019 he claimed he was out $42,000.
Several complaints have been filed with the Better Business Bureau, where the dealership has an "F" rating for failure to respond to three complaints.
When Fell spoke with CTV News Vancouver in 2019, he denied the allegations against him, saying his business was run honestly.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Regan Hasegawa and Julie Nolin
An earlier version of this story said charges were laid against Allan Fell, rather than Aaron Fell.