Repo team twice grabs wrong boat

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A couple enjoying a quiet night on their boat in the Florida Keys were rousted from bed when a repo team cut the dock lines and water hose, disconnected the shore power and began towing them away from the dock.

Not only were the couple still below as their Magnum 40 Sport Cruiser — appropriately named Magnum — inched away from the dock, but the night raiders had grabbed the wrong boat.

Same year, 1984. Same make and model. Wrong Coast Guard documentation number. Wrong hull identification number, which was clearly visible in white on the green transom.

“We were kidnapped; we were hijacked,” says Walter Dethier, 65, of Warren, Conn.

Dethier, a semiretired auto racer and publicist, was asleep, and his wife, Joann, was watching television when the power went out at about 10:30 p.m. last November. At first, they thought it was a blown fuse or a power outage. Then they heard the thump of power cables dumped onto the foredeck. Dethier ran topside, leaped six feet across the water onto the dock, and confronted three black-clad figures. Two others were in a tow boat. Magnum’s bow line already was secured to its bitt.

Advised that it was a repossession, an outraged Dethier wouldn’t let the men take the boat. The Magnum was free of liens and mortgages, paid for by check seven years earlier, he says.

Meanwhile, a neighbor — retired police officer Lawrence MacDuff — heard the commotion, joined Dethier on the dock, and asked to see documents authorizing the repossession. A sheriff’s incident report says one of the team responded that the men didn’t need any paperwork. Advised that sheriff’s deputies were on the way to straighten things out, the repo team scattered, according to the police account.

On Jan. 22, the Dethiers were back home in Connecticut when they got a phone call from an agitated Candi MacDuff, dockmaster at Marina del Mar, reporting that a team claiming to be repo agents had cut Magnum’s dock lines and water hose, disconnected the power cables, and was towing the boat away.

This time they showed paperwork authorizing the repossession, though as it became evident later the authorization was for a 40-foot Magnum with a different name, HIN and documentation number than the boat they were taking.

Police reports identified Fort Lauderdale-based National Marine Liquidators as the company that attempted both snatches for Wachovia Bank, and Jason M. Barroncini as the repo team leader.

National Marine’s recovery log for the case clearly shows the Magnum they were looking for had a different name, different owner and different hull identification number than the Dethiers’ Magnum. Both Jason Lessnau, head of National Marine’s repo division, and repo team leader Barroncini say they couldn’t comment on specifics of the case. The Monroe County state’s attorney’s office decided not to file theft charges since “there was no intent to steal the vessel or hijack the victims,” according to the police report.

An attorney for the Dethiers has demanded that National Liquidators pay for damages. Dethier also has filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture, which licenses repossession agents.

“This vigilante attitude of cutting and slicing and stealing in the night in black clothing and with unmarked vehicles is positively ludicrous,” says Dethier. “The simple fact is my wife and I have been terrorized by this company.”

See the July issue of Soundings, Trade Only’s sister publication, for more on this story.

— Jim Flannery


11 comments on “Repo team twice grabs wrong boat

  1. BG Sykes

    The wrongful reposession attempt should cost the reposessing company punitively, as the pecuniary loss will dictate proper care in their future efforts.  I wish the Dethiers success.  Their claim should succeed.
    BG Sykes

  2. D in Jupiter ,FL

    The repo company should at least be sued for theft and penalized . There should be rules for those people who repo at night . If it were daylight maybe they would be able to read the info regarding the boat better and be sure its the correct boat before they STEAL somebody elses property. If their paperwork is legal then they should have no problem getting their property back . I feel sorry for the Detheirs, that was a frightening ordeal for them and totally unneccesary, they have been terrorized and National Liquidators should pay a pretty penny ! They need to step up and take responsibility for their stupid behavoir !

  3. engineroom

    Those repo guys were lucky. Many people in FL have concealed carry permits. If it was me I would have been in their faces with a 38. You never know where pirates are from these days! I hope that company looses their certification. In my state they must have paperwork and usually show up with law enforcement.

  4. Phil

    So the police judge that lack of intent is sufficient to excuse these guys from criminal charges? What about criminal negligence? Gee, I fired off my gun, but I didn’t “intend” to hurt anyone. The point is, if you are given authority of any kind, you should be held accountable for mis-use and/or mistaken use of that authority. Hopefully, civil actions will result in awards that will discourage such recklessness. And hopefully those awards will reach back into the pockets of the lien holders who nilly willy authorize the employment of such tactics.

  5. pop40

    this is just another nail in the coffin of the marine industry today.these repo companies although they may be doing a service for the lender they are diluting an already shrinking market and dissolving any chance for profit to all of the new boat dealers in south florida.even the consumer suffers buying a repo from the “blackHand” what about customer service, person touch and long term relationships which are the mainstay of any healthy business?
    i think when they screw up there should be no second chances.the team members are similar to a strike team or swat team. they should never shoot the wrong guy.If the trend continues the repo sales will become like the wild wild west and we no longer will have a vital industry to worry about.

  6. Herb

    It would be interesting to know the process in repo’ing a boat. Does anyone know the percentage of how often this happens? I’d venture to guess it’s a one-off incident.

  7. Capt. Ed

    This has been a very traumatic experience for the owners of the magnificent 40 Magnum. I have the boat listed for sale at a drastically reduced price. The Mrs. will not sleep on the boat since the terrifying night the repo guys came. It’s a sad situation because the owners have spent a lot of money and love on this classic Magnum. The boat is on line. Take a look at what the repo guys tried to steal.
    Capt. Ed

  8. Jeff

    The wrong boat is taken, by a group claiming to be a repo team – not once, but twice. The authorities reportedly treat it like an honest mistake, and the repo company allegedly has “no comment”. If I hadn’t been there when this happened, I would think there is more to Walter and Joanne Dethier’s story, but there does not appear to be. On the first attempt; witnesses corroborate, a group tried to tow their boat away while they were on it. If that was an honest mistake, why did the people, who were attempting to take the boat, run from the scene when the police were called? On the second attempt, the Dethier’s were not there, and apparently at least one of the same people, from the first attempt, towed the boat a couple of miles offshore before the Coast Guard stopped them. My God, what might have happened, if both Walter and Joanne were asleep during the first attempt to take their boat? Would they have found themselves, in the open ocean, in the middle of the night, with a group of men in black? What would you have done? There certainly is something amiss here. I hope some publicity helps set things straight for Walter and Joanne. They seem to deserve much better treatment than they have received so far.

  9. Larry Broome

    Herb says  he suspects this is a one-off incident (May 20).  Not so.  A week or so back, we had a case involning a Hydra Sports 27.  A repo man told the marina manager that they “had to” load the boat on his trailer and showed a court order.  The only problem was the HINs didn’t match.  The repo jerk still insisted he was taking the boat and the owner was called.  It seems he is a deputy sheriff and was not amused.
    Larry B  Merritt Island, FL

  10. Capt. Em

    This is another justified reason for folks to own weapons for self-protection.  I live in Virginia and have a concealed carry permit.  Some idiot boards my vessel, and attempts what these idiots did, may end up crab bait.

  11. M West

    Difficult situation for all parites. However it is clear that the responsibility of proper HIN identification is the repo companies responsibility. The men dressed in black are fortunate Deithiers did not shoot them. If my family was on my boat and we came under attack the outcome would have not been good for anyone. Again National Marine Liquidators should take this situation as a lesson learned and train and advise there repo team accordingly. They could call their new identification procedure “Deithiers check”. Come on guys learn from your mistakes and be better at your job.

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