Two Clearwater men are facing racketeering charges because of a multi-agency investigation into complaints received against their boat building business.
Justin Edwin Belz, 25, and Andrew Christopher Reeves Biddle II, 47, were found to have engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity while operating Calypso Skiff LLC, according to a media release from Pinellas County.
Grand theft and dealing in stolen property were also among the charges filed against both defendants on April 18.
“Protecting our county residents and consumers from unlawful business practices is always a top priority,” said Doug Templeton, operations manager with Pinellas County Consumer Protection. “The agency partnerships and diligent efforts on this case will help prevent other consumers from becoming fraud victims.”
Consumer Protection, an office under the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners, collaborated on the investigation with the Sixth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, Clearwater Police Department, St. Petersburg Police Department, Largo Police Department and the Florida Department of Financial Services.
During October 2015, the defendants formed Calypso Skiff LLC and began to take deposits for boats that were either not delivered or only partially completed. While operating this enterprise, they also obtained vehicles, boat molds, boat motors and other items with worthless checks. Employees were paid with worthless checks, as well. The total fraud amount associated with the defendants exceeds $275,000.
Under Florida Law, a person commits racketeering when they are involved with an organization that has the purpose of engaging in criminal activity, such as fraud or theft.
Pinellas County Consumer Protection reminds consumers that not all failed business transactions are civil in nature and that some may be fraudulent and could lead to criminal charges. Consumers are urged to contact Consumer Protection at 727-464-6200 to report suspicious activity.